Training camp means rookies finally can unleash

Training camp means rookies finally can unleash
July 22, 2013, 9:00 am
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Rookie safety Earl Wolff is talking about the difference between spring minicamps and summer training camp.

“Minicamps, you have to hold back,” said Wolff, the fifth-round pick from North Carolina State. “Coach [Chip] Kelly doesn’t want anybody to get hurt.

“Once the pads come on, it’s going to be real.”

Spring minicamps and OTAs are all non-contact, no-pads, no live periods. Just guys running around and learning.

Training camp?

That’s football.

“I’m a real physical guy,” Wolff said. “I love contact. I love making plays. Training camp comes along, I’ll be able to really show what I can do.”

Training camp comes along Tuesday, when the Eagles’ rookies and quarterbacks start practicing at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia.

With pads. With helmets. With live periods. With plenty of hitting.

“First phase of the offseason [was] a learning experience for me,” said rookie defensive tackle Bennie Logan, the third-round pick from LSU. “It was good -- first year in the NFL for me and [to] get a good feeling around the veterans, learn how to practice and everything.

“But going into the second phase. [I’m] really looking forward to putting the pads on, getting used to the weight on your shoulder and the heat.

“I know the intensity will pick up and that’s something I’m looking forward to. I know all the plays, what I’m supposed to do. Now it’s time to see how you react with the pads on.”

Every coach will tell you about guys who looked great running around in shorts and shirts in minicamps and then were useless once the real stuff began.

And there are just as many stories of guys who didn’t look like anything during non-contact drills but really blossomed once the hitting began.

"You can evaluate guys in shorts and shirts, they can be a dominant player, but it’s a different thing once you put the pads on,” Logan said.

“Guys get tired, you get more fatigued, the heat gets to you, it really shows how you’re going to react and what kind of player you are when you’re under a lot of pressure and everything is going full speed.

“The veterans -- Isaac [Sopoaga], Cedric [Thornton], all those guys -- they told me how to prepare for camp, what to expect. Stay hydrated. That’s the main thing. It’s going to be a great thing. Just stick together. No matter how hard it gets, just remember your main focus and what your purpose is and your goals for the team."

Twenty rookies are among the 30 players expected to report Monday and start practice on Tuesday. The full team will start practice on Friday.

Kelly was vague about just how much hitting the Eagles will do, and when it will start, but at some point, it will start.

“That’s when the judgment will really come, when the pads go on,” said Jake Knott, a highly regarded undrafted linebacker out of Iowa State. “That’s when every single second and every single day is going to matter even more.

“I don’t know when my last second, my last play is going to come, so I have to treat every play like it’s my last.

“In training camp, there’s a lot more plays you can make. And the offense thinks a little bit differently when the defense has pads on, too, so it makes it more fun.”

For someone like Wolff, a rookie late-round pick, the live periods are essential. They’re one of the few times he can really impress the coaches.

He doesn’t have a job locked up. We know how bad the secondary was last year. He’ll get a long look at camp.

But if he doesn’t produce during the full-thud periods and live periods, nothing else will matter.

“OTAs was all about knowing the plays, getting in the right spots, getting in the right position,” Wolff said. “When we get the pads on, it will be more physical, more aggressive, and you can basically let everything go instead of holding back.

“Be able to make plays on balls, dive for balls, compete for balls, finally get to take on blocks and show what type of player you really are.

“You put the pads on, and that’s when the real players come out. I’m ready to go back, ready to go back to hitting."