More than 40,000 Eagles fans showed up to Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night to catch the team’s sole open practice of training camp.
For the first time, NBC Sport Philadelphia broadcast the entire two-hour practice live for fans who weren’t able to make it to the stadium. Former Eagles offensive lineman turned broadcaster Barrett Brooks whet the appetites of viewers by noting the players were wearing pads, which likely meant they “want to give fans a little bit” and they’re probably “going to go harder than they usually do.”
If they did, fans watching at home didn’t see it, because NBC Sports Philadelphia showed very little of the actual practice on the field.
Whether by choice or out of necessity, Sunday’s telecast spent more time in the broadcast booth with Michael Barkann, Ray Didinger, and Brooks than it did showing action on the field (though as one astute Twitter user pointed out, part of the Linc’s Jumbotron was visible over Barkann’s shoulder, showing a glimpse of what was happening).
The broadcast was also filled with interviews featuring former Eagles players, including some pre-filmed at the NovaCare Complex along with a fair amount of footage shot during previous training camp sessions. The lack of action led to a flood of complaints on social media from angry fans accusing the network of misrepresenting its coverage plans.
Despite the heavy round of complaints, NBC Sports Philadelphia said the network was “thrilled" with its broadcast Sunday night.
“With this being the first time airing the Eagles public practice, we are thrilled with our broadcast,” the network said in a statement. “There are some things we learned that will allow us to do an even better job next year.”
One network source told the Inquirer that NBC Sports Philadelphia wasn’t permitted to show much of the practice by the Eagles. In response to one fan’s complaint, anchor and reporter Derrick Gunn also suggested the network wasn’t allowed to let viewers see much of the practice, noting that “all NFL teams are very secretive.”
About the only thing of note I saw during the entire broadcast was Carson Wentz connecting a few times with new target DeSean Jackson, including a long pass after badly beating cornerback Rasul Douglas.
In addition to being the team’s only open practice of the season (as my colleague Jeff McLane noted, the league average is 11 open practices per team), the Eagles charged $10 per ticket to attend. While this rubbed many fans the wrong way, it allowed the team to raise around $475,000 for autism research, according to team president Don Smolenski.
Fortunately, fans will get to see plenty of action on Thursday night, when the Eagles face off against the Tennessee Titans at the Linc in their first preseason game. The game will air on NBC10, with former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker making his Eagles broadcasting debut.
Here’s more of the Inquirer’s coverage from Sunday’s Eagles practice: