Remember when winning Super Bowls was going to be the Eagles’ “new normal?”
Doug Pederson made that pronouncement in the aftermath of his historic Super Bowl LII triumph. On Monday, the head coach invoked the same phrase in a very different context.
Pederson’s faith in the viability of the NFL’s plan for opening training camps this week, and then playing a 16-game season, seemed undaunted, despite the coronavirus outbreak on baseball’s Miami Marlins that caused that team to be quarantined in Philadelphia and postponed Monday’s Marlins-Orioles and Yankees-Phillies games.
“The protocols that the NFL has put into place with the players’ association, the agreement there ... it gives us excitement moving forward,” Pederson said on a Zoom call with reporters. “We understand that the virus is real, and we do everything we can, in our power, to stay safe, protecting ourselves when we’re in the building, protecting our players. It’s unfortunate what has happened, but we do have a lengthy set of protocols that we have to abide by, and this is our new normal, right now. We’re working in these conditions, as probably most of you are working in your conditions as well.
“It’s something we’re going to embrace. We’re going to make it a positive. It is what it is, and we’re going to embrace it.”
Asked another question about the Marlins outbreak, and whether he thinks the NFL is looking at Major League Baseball’s experience to help guide it through these uncharted waters, Pederson said he is mostly concerned with getting the Eagles ready to play.
“I know the guys that are higher up than me are watching that, our doctors and medical team at the NFL, they are watching all this stuff. They are in constant conversations and constant meetings, and they will have a plan. They will be prepared,” Pederson said. “It’s my job to get the team prepared, and then, obviously, their job is to make sure that we’re all safe and doing the right thing.”
Pederson said he was not allowed to say whether any Eagles have tested positive for the coronavirus. Rookies and select veterans have reported and begun testing, with the bulk of the roster due to report by Tuesday. Testing, followed by strength-and-conditioning work will push normal training camp practice back, with the players not taking the field in pads until Aug. 17.
Pederson was asked whether he felt safe mingling with coaches, staffers, and 80 players this week, and whether staff and players were going to be safe.
“I feel extremely safe,” said Pederson, 52, who is embarking on his fifth season as head coach. “Obviously, coming into it, there might have been some skepticism about the testing and the screening that goes on. But this is very thorough. When you’re here [at the NovaCare Complex], you get tested in the morning, you’ve got a screening process you have to go through to get into the building, wearing masks in the building everywhere we go, I feel extremely safe. This is our bubble, right here in NovaCare.”
But players, coaches, and staffers aren’t in that “bubble” 24 hours a day. They leave in the evening and come back the next morning, and their activities during the time they are away might determine whether NFL teams suffer outbreaks such as that experienced by the Marlins during their three-game series in Philadelphia.
“I can’t control everything, we can’t control everything,” Pederson said. “There probably are going to be some things that come up down the road, but right now I feel extremely safe, and this is a great environment for our players to succeed in.”
Pederson was asked whether he has thought about not just player depth, but the need to sub for a coach or staff member who might test positive.
“I think there has to be a plan in place for any coach or any staff member that may miss a couple days or a couple weeks because of the virus,” he said.
Teams are allowed to bring the normal allotment of 90 players to camp but must cut to 80 by Aug. 16, and if they start camp with more than 80, the team must be split into two practice groups. The Eagles seem to want to avoid that; they’ve been cutting players over the past several days. Sunday evening, they either waived or released defensive end Daeshon Hall, wide receivers Shelton Gibson and Marcus Green, defensive tackle Albert Huggins, and cornerback Tremon Smith. Hall tore an ACL at the end of the regular-season finale against the Giants. He cleared waivers Monday, and reverted to the team’s reserve/physically unable to play list. He won’t count against the roster limit.
The Eagles’ roster stood at 82 players Monday evening.