CHIP KELLY said Monday he didn't think he needed to go to his players and reaffirm his commitment to seeing things through here, or to reiterate what he told reporters that day - that he never spoke to USC about the Trojans' head-coaching job.
But before practice Tuesday, Kelly did indeed do just that, players said. Offensive tackle Lane Johnson said Kelly told them that "the whole USC story was made up, and that he was out of town (when Kelly supposedly met with USC officials in Philadelphia)."
Johnson said Kelly "said he will be here as long as he's wanted."
Obviously, Kelly's intentions are only one piece of the puzzle - Eagle chairman Jeffrey Lurie hasn't spoken publicly since just before the season, when he called Kelly "a builder of a roster, culture builder; he's everything that I think we all thought when we interviewed him, and more."
There has been no hint that Lurie is ready to move on from Kelly, who is 4-7 in his first season with total control over personnel, after going 20-12 his first two seasons, when Howie Roseman was general manager. There have been no rumblings of Eagles interest in other coaches. But obviously, blowout losses like the team suffered the past two games can't continue; no NFL coach survives a prolonged streak of noncompetitive play, regardless of what the owner might intend.
Eagles players said Sam Bradford did everything in Tuesday's practice, another sign pointing toward his return to starting quarterback duties Sunday at New England.
"He was really good," wideout Jordan Matthews said. "Seven-on-seven, team period, two-minute, did really well. Drove down the field in two-minute, hit (tight end Zach Ertz) for a touchdown late . . . He was talkative in the huddle, getting everybody going. It was a good feeling, having him back in there."
Bradford suffered a concussion and a left shoulder AC sprain in the Eagles' Nov. 15 loss to Miami, which began their current three-game slide.
"It's just a matter of him going out and training, and then recovering from the training and then going out and doing it again," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "So we're just looking for him to go out and be able to execute, and feel good doing it."
Shurmur also noted that "throwing is a motion that involves all parts of your body."
"There's a lot of things to consider with a quarterback," Shurmur said. "His ability to throw the ball, his ability to move, and then also his ability to protect himself in the pocket if something breaks down."
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis knows you can't give up 45 points in back-to-back games and just reconvene for practice as if everything is fine. But he also knows his options for change are limited, 11 games into the season.
"You cannot panic. You cannot overreact, and you cannot underreact," Davis said Tuesday. "That's the fine line I'm walking right now. We're looking at everything and everybody - what moves are available to be made, and do they warrant (being made). The other day, we didn't do a lot of things well. There was not (only) one place or one position that was at fault. I think all of us own it. All of us own our own mistakes. I have to do a bit better job of planning and putting these guys in spots, and they've got to do a better job of executing."
Jaylen Watkins, the Eagles' 2014 fourth-round pick who returned this week to replace Nolan Carroll (broken ankle) on the roster, said he learned a lot on Buffalo's practice squad, where he was when the Eagles reached out.
"I was able to pick Rex Ryan's mind. They have a great defensive backfield over there; I was able to learn new techniques, and refine my techniques while being on the scout team, covering Percy Harvin, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods," Watkins said.
Jaylen and Sammy Watkins are half-brothers.
"On scout team, I made sure I wore whatever jersey was going to be shadowing him, and I knew I could get good reps, and he could get good reps, without any hard feelings - you know how that goes," Watkins said. "Brothers, we're both just trying to get better. Being new over there, you don't want to step on any toes, but my brother being there, I was able to get some good work."
Watkins, cut by the Eagles Sept. 5, said he won't need to relearn Bill Davis' system. "I know the defense like the back of my hand," he said.
Running back Ryan Mathews was sighted watching practice, for the first time since his concussion in the Miami game. That would be at least a slight indication of progress . . . Also watching were wide receiver Josh Huff (concussion) and safety Walter Thurmond (hamstring, presumably). Tight end Zach Ertz practiced and said he has been fully cleared from his concussion by an independent neurologist . . . Left tackle Jason Peters practiced, seemingly OK after the ankle injury that took him from the Thanksgiving loss on the Eagles' first series. "We're only one game down" in the NFC East, Peters noted. "If we were 10-1 and the division leader was 11-0 (it would be no different). We're still one game down. We're just going to fight it out and see what happens."