The situation was familiar as a group of 25 current and former NFL players sat in a huddle, eagerly receiving their final words of encouragement. The environment could not have been any different, however.
It wasn't a coach giving out orders; rather it was the NFL Films production crew teaching the next crop of broadcasting hopefuls yesterday at the Sports Authority in Mount Laurel, N.J. As part of the league's broadcasting "boot camp," players were able to finally practice what they have learned during a week's worth of training at NFL Films.
Players in attendance included Muhsin Muhammad, Hines Ward, Derrick Brooks and Orlando Pace. Four former Eagles - Jeremiah Trotter, Hollis Thomas, Bobby Taylor and Charlie Garner - also tested out how it felt to be a part of the media.
Thomas, currently a free agent who spent 10 years in Philadelphia, played the class-clown role, often having to quiet down the set. He believes that his entertaining personality would play well on television.
"You want to be a part of the game," Thomas said. "It's pretty much talking about sports all the time. So it's a great opportunity to stay in the limelight and you don't have to get hurt. I'm a fat kid so I've had all my embarrassments throughout life. I just try to be myself in this whole ordeal."
The group paired up to conduct mock interviews, with the players taking turns asking the questions. Thomas formed quite the entertaining duo with Ward.
"It's a lot of hard work that goes into it," said Ward, the Steelers' standout wide receiver. "A lot of guys want to explore the avenues of life after football so it's a great opportunity. You still want to be a part of the game. This is the best way to do it and also get compensated for it."
Trotter, who has hosted his own radio show on 610 WIP and done postgame work on Comcast SportsNet, is glad the league is offering guidance to players focusing on life after football.
"We are getting a lot of information from top-name guys and we're learning a lot," Trotter said. "The one thing you learn is that when we do get into this business, we won't receive that constructive criticism as much as we are receiving now. We are getting the opportunity to build our resume, put some tapes up and learn a lot. They are teaching us all aspects of broadcasting."
Trotter also offered his opinions on the Easter trade of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins and the Birds' current quarterback situation.
"I've learned over my career that this is a business and Donovan had a great run with the Eagles," he said. "I think he is a future Hall of Famer. I expect Donovan to go down there and continue what he has accomplished here, which is putting up big numbers and helping the team win. [Kevin] Kolb is an outstanding young talent. I always said that I love his demeanor. He has all the tangibles to be an outstanding quarterback. I think he will be very successful here."
Trotter last played in 2009 in his third stint with Philadelphia. He also has spent time with Washington and Tampa Bay during his 11-year career. The "Axe Man" has done well in life outside of football, with his two car washes in Voorhees, but he still keeps tabs on the Eagles, most notably the defense.
"You talk about losing a future Hall of Famer in Brian Dawkins and, in my opinion, Jim Johnson should be a future Hall of Famer, one of the best coordinators I ever played for, it's definitely going to hurt you," Trotter said. "Last year was a learning experience for Sean [McDermott]. One thing about the Eagles, they will always be competitive. They do a great job of replenishing the talent, but we will see. I believe the NFC East will be one of the toughest divisions."
As far as any chances to return to the franchise where he earned four Pro Bowl selections, Trotter offered this:
"I'm not retired," he said. "I'm just training right now. I returned three times, so you never say never with me, right?"