Cornerback Ellis Hobbs said an interesting thing this week when someone asked if it felt a little strange for him, as an established veteran, to be at a non-mandatory Organized Team Activity usually reserved for rookies, free agents and selected veterans trying to hold onto their jobs.
"No, brother. I came from New England. Everybody's there. If you could walk, you were there," he said. "It was voluntary-mandatory, if you know what I mean."
We know what you mean, and maybe some of that undercurrent of discipline -- even if the NFLPA might disagree -- is why the Patriots won three Super Bowls recently. It is certainly why quarterback Tom Brady was there this week, getting a jump on knowing the new guys and re-acquainting with the old guys.
Brady is coming off an injury this year, but that's not the motivation. He's there every year, because it is expected that the players, in exchange for their nice salaries, do the extra work that they don't really have to do.
In another organizational environment, Brady could stay at his vacation home with his beautiful wife and he could have passing drills with whatever receivers happen to live in the same resort area. This would qualify as "working hard," even though it wouldn't help his own receivers learn to run routes the way he likes them to be run, or learn to catch the kind of passes he throws.
In other words, he could have the same deal with his team that Donovan McNabb has with his.
McNabb stays in Phoenix when he isn't required to be here, and he has rigorous workout sessions there with his buddies. That's fine. It's what he believes is best for him. But is it best for the Eagles? Is it possible that the five days of OTAs from last week and this week would have benefitted the offense if McNabb got to know and work with LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin?
We'll never know, because that isn't what happens here, even leading up to a season that is pivotal for both the Eagles and McNabb. For all the sternness attributed to Andy Reid, his team operates a lot more loosely than Bill Belichick's. He plays by the rules of the collective bargaining agreement and, perhaps, hopes that players will want to come in even if they don't have to.
When the team leader doesn't take that approach, it is difficult to sell it to the others. Just mark it down as another difference between the Patriots and the Eagles, a difference that is more than three points.