Nick Foles offered some insight Tuesday into his absence from the last three Eagles practices, and some other subjects, at the end of a blazing hot day of training camp work at the NovaCare Complex.
The injury takeaway first: "Muscle spasms. Nothing crazy," Foles said, pointing to his collarbone-top of shoulder, trapezius muscle region. "Trap-neck area. Going to be fine … not a big deal. We're just being smart."
Foles missed all of training camp and the preseason last year with a sore elbow, so there was concern. With No. 1 quarterback Carson Wentz very unlikely to play in the preseason, and currently not practicing 11-on-11, Foles' absence puts a large workload on Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan. The Eagles want to see a lot of Sudfeld in these practices and games — he arrived after the preseason in 2017 — but they don't want to kill him.
In talking with reporters, Foles and Eagles coach Doug Pederson toyed with the idea of Foles' playing in Thursday night's preseason opener against the Steelers, but they didn't really try to sell it. Look for Sudfeld to start and get the bulk of the action, relieved by Callahan, the pride of Absecon (N.J.) High and Wesley College. Callahan has been waived four times by the Packers since 2016, with brief New Orleans and Cleveland stints sprinkled in.
Pederson didn't outline how much his starters will play against the Steelers, but he said he would like to get them a game's worth of snaps — 65 to 70 — over the three preseason games in which starters traditionally appear.
Foles spoke of his recent absence in terms of the team being cautious.
"Sometimes with throwers, you throw so much, some things just get aggravated. This is that time of year where you just try to be smart. I'm in the training room a lot, we're getting a good regimen going on. … I want to be out there every single day, but right now we're just focused on getting this thing healthy, be back out there as soon as I can," Foles said.
Asked about Thursday, he said: "We're still talking about it. We're worrying about the training room right now, going through the rehab protocol, so we'll see. We never rule anything out."
Foles said there was no incident that led to the discomfort, that it was "one of those things that just sort of happened one day."
Clearly, Foles expects to be back sooner rather than later, feels that even a Super Bowl MVP needs practice and preseason game reps. He said when he had to fill in for Wentz after Wentz's Dec. 10 knee injury against the Los Angeles Rams, he definitely felt the effects of not having played all year, and of not having practiced with the starters.
"Football's such a rhythm game. It took me a little bit of time at the end of the year to get that rhythm back. That's why the preseason's great, that's why training camp's great, that's why every single rep is so valuable. But I don't have a target amount of playing. I just want to be back on the practice field, healthy, ready to roll," he said.
Foles spoke of how Sudfeld and Callahan can benefit from suddenly getting all the game and 11-on-11 practice reps.
"These are great opportunities for Nate and Joe, if I'm not able to play. I think anytime you get reps with the 'ones,' where you sort of get thrust into a position you're not really expecting, that's the life of a backup quarterback.
"I think Nate has the potential and ability to be a starter in this league. He's a guy that, since he's gotten here [after being waived by Washington], he continues to get better, he continues to excel, he continues to just grow every single day. I expect him to start in this league. But I think right now is a valuable time.
"The other day in practice, [Sudfeld] stepping in with the 'ones,' that's real. That's what you have to do, that's what I had to do last year, where you're coming off the bench, in a game, into the third quarter and you've got to win it. That's what's tough about being a backup.
"When you're a starter, you're getting all the reps, you're mentally prepared, you have the rhythm with all the guys. Well, [coming in] you have to catch that rhythm, and you have to catch it fast."
With Wentz not working in full-team periods and Foles sidelined, both Sudfeld and Callahan have been working with different receivers and linemen.
"It's not been too big for them, but they're starting to settle down," Foles said. "It is different when you're repping with guys you're not used to."
Pederson said he'll try to use as much of his 90-man roster as he can in the preseason opener. Obviously, established players who haven't been practicing because of injury aren't going to play, but the other end of the lineup card should get lots of use.
"It's one of those games where we try to play everybody. We're still evaluating, so it's great to get everybody in this game. Our starters, offensively and defensively, the ones that are healthy and going to play, are going to get some good work. I want to make sure that they get a little bit of work in this game," Pederson said. "And I want to see all the young guys perform, and they'll get some great opportunities."
Foles was asked about working with a new offensive coordinator — Mike Groh — and a new quarterbacks coach, Press Taylor. He said he knew both coaches coming into this, has known Taylor a long time, but there was still work to do to create the kind of mutual bond he had with offensive coordinator Frank Reich, now the Colts' head coach, and QB coach John DeFilippo, now the Vikings' offensive coordinator.
"I was with Flip and Frank every single day in a meeting, while Mike and Press were downstairs with the receivers, so we didn't have that time together," Foles said.
"Football's special because of the relationships, teammates and coaches alike. That's where you see the bond. It's not just players. You have to actually enjoy being around your coach, and trust him. I think you saw that when you get the miked-up stuff from last year, when we're talking to coaches. I've used the Philly Special play as a great example; Doug and I have a lot of trust in each other, we've known each other a long time. That [sideline] conversation, if you don't know each other, probably doesn't go very well."
Youngsters to watch
Asked to identify a few hopefuls on offense fans whom might want to pay attention to Thursday night, Foles offered tight end Dallas Goedert, the team's top draft pick, 49th overall, in the second round, and receiver-returner Rashard Davis, an undrafted rookie from the 2017 camp who spent time on the practice squad last season.
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"Dallas has had a great camp … A really good player that's coming along every single day," Foles said.
"Rashard Davis — from a guy that's undrafted, coming in here, second year, I think he's a very talented player, can do a lot of different things. When the ball is in his hands, he's very dynamic. A lot of guys might not necessarily know much about him, but I think he's a guy who can do some pretty special things."