BETHLEHEM, Pa. - It was only the first day of full-team practice for the Eagles in training camp, but already the heat waves were shimmering in the sunlight at Lehigh University. The veterans could tell the new guys that it hasn't even begun to get hot yet and that training camp doesn't officially begin until the real hitting starts.

Regardless of what happened in the offseason, in the draft, in the minicamps and OTAs, nothing has really started yet for the 2012 Eagles. But here is where the momentum will build and become a downhill run into the regular season.

Hopefully, the team won't run itself straight into a wall as it did a year ago, but there is no way to tell. When the full-contact practices begin with an afternoon session on Friday, Andy Reid and his staff will open the process of finding out if they really love all those moves they said they really loved.

It will be interesting to watch it unfold, and there are lots of questions to answer, but, as with most football teams, a lot of the potential success rests with one of the men standing in the small group that wears the don't-hit-him red jersey of the quarterback.

Keeping Michael Vick healthy and effective, which are usually related, is the biggest job the Eagles have, and every coach can use a little help getting the importance of that message across. Reid got his from a decent source, the president of the United States, who was recently introduced at a campaign function in Oakland by Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

"Tell Vick to slide," Barack Obama said to Asomugha. Whether that advice will have more effect coming from Obama than it has from Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is another of those questions that have to be answered. Coaches going all the way back to Vick's days in Atlanta - where the Falcons actually sent Vick over to Bobby Cox of the Braves for a sliding lesson - have pleaded for Vick to avoid contact when possible as he takes off and runs.

"At all costs, you want to protect yourself," Vick said after practice Thursday. "I get it from my teammates. I get it from my mom. I get it from my friends. Now, I get it from the president. . . . You let it soak in and think to yourself, 'Yeah, he's got a point.' If he's saying it, I got to do it. So, the first run of the year, I'm sliding, and that will be for him."

It's funny stuff, sure, but what about all the other runs in the coming season?

"It all depends on the situation of the game," Vick said.

Great, but that's no different from the other unknowns that trail the Eagles. If the new season doesn't start off any better than the previous one, nobody will remember that the team had everyone signed and happy as training camp began, which is almost never the case.

They are all in their places this time, however. The new player-friendly Eagles got contracts done with DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and Trent Cole, among others. They filled holes at offensive left tackle and middle linebacker. They enjoyed a draft in which need coincided with ability on the board.

The 2012 season approaches with Reid able to micromanage the offseason schedule down to the last tick - Wednesday's practice was on the books as ending at 4:08 p.m., and they hit the mark exactly. That's a contrast with 2011, when the lockout settlement led to a windstorm of hurry, all while the Eagles were trying to massively remake their defense and deal with a situation in which their two best receivers were either not healthy (Jeremy Maclin) or petulant about a contract (Jackson).

It didn't go well. The defense was awful for the first 12 games - eight of them losses - and the offense sputtered for a number of reasons. The biggest one was that Vick became a turnover machine when he couldn't find open receivers.

All of that is forgotten now in the heat of another Lehigh summer where there is nothing to see but the possibilities that lie ahead. Of course, forgotten too is the last go-round at Lehigh, when the Eagles thought they had cornered the market on smart and some fool said it was like being on a dream team. That didn't sound foolish at the time, but soon enough, and you never know how the proclamations of this opening week will sound in a couple of months.

"It's awesome. It's great to have all the guys here. Everybody's enthused," Vick said. "Everybody's happy to be here and be around one another. Our brotherhood is special."

It always is in July and August. The tests of the season can strain that kind of thing, though, and make the promises of training camp into the empty words of November.

"If the president of the United States says slide, I'm sliding," Vick said. "Trust me."

Nah, we'll wait and see how it comes out. And the same goes for all those guys with you, too.