For years, NFL teams have called what the Eagles are doing this weekend "rookie camp," but that title was always a bit misleading.
This minicamp would indeed be the first gathering of the team's draftees and the undrafted rookies, but the whole team would assemble, for the first time since the end of the previous season; the rookies were just part of the show.
The new collective bargaining agreement brought all kinds of changes to the offseason routine. One of them is that there will be no Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson or Trent Cole at the rookie camp that starts Saturday and extends through Monday. All 44 invitees will be either rookies or "first-year" players, which is the NFL's arcane term for guys who have been hanging around training camps and practice squads for a while but have never played in regular-season games.
The knee-jerk reaction would be to wonder whether position coaches will really earn their pay this time, running an entire campful of guys who have never lined up in the Eagles' offense or defense, with very few exceptions.
Predictably, Eagles coach Andy Reid doesn't see chaos ensuing.
"The rookies got slighted on reps [under the old format]," Reid said recently. "This is a great learning experience for these guys. They're able to come in, we can slow it down for 'em, they're able to get ample reps. They're going to learn the offense, defense and special teams — all three phases. We have a chance to see 'em move around a little bit, and that part's exciting."
The change in minicamp structure meant Reid and general manager Howie Roseman had to engineer the tryout offers and rookie free-agent signings so that, for example, there would be a tight end or two, or a punter.
"Howie and I sat there, and we tried to put enough guys together where we can go offense vs. defense," Reid said. "Throwing the football, or whatever we want to do, we can get that accomplished. We've had to add a few guys to be able to do that."
The Eagles released an updated roster Thursday, with all the new jersey numbers. First-round defensive end Fletcher Cox is No. 91, fourth-round corner/returner Brandon Boyklin gets Asante Samuel's No. 22, while it's still warm, and the equipment guy probably thought he was real clever giving 34 to seventh-round running back Bryce Brown, without even changing Ronnie Brown's name on the back. Second-round defensive end Vinny Curry takes Juqua Parker's 75 and second-round linebacker Mychal Kendricks tries to change the bad juju associated with 95 (Jerome McDougle, Victor Abiamiri).
Another twist is that the veteran players are around this weekend, in the building, for their scheduled offseason training. They just won't be on the field.
"I know the veteran players will be watching — they'll have their faces plastered up against the glass, looking out the weight room at 'em?…?will have an opportunity to meet 'em," Reid said.
Two-a-days are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, then there's a morning Monday session before the rookies disperse. Full-team organized team activities run May 22-24, May 30-June 1, and June 4-7. Rookies and select vets report to Lehigh for training camp on July 22. n