Ed Reynolds worked with Eagles coaches during the rookie minicamp last weekend, marking his last time with the team until the second week of June. That's when Reynolds, the safety the Eagles picked in the fifth round of the NFL draft, will complete his final exams to graduate with a political science degree from Stanford.
An NFL rule keeps rookies from participating with their teams until after their school year is completed. It kept tight end Zach Ertz, another Stanford alum, away from the Eagles for parts of last spring. Reynolds will miss organized team activities, but he will return for the mandatory minicamp.
"I'll be able to have the playbook with me, so [I'll be] having those mental reps now and also carrying them over when I'm gone," Reynolds said last week. "But all the physical reps, I can do [during rookie minicamp] and get as many as I can. It's muscle memory, doing my assignment, aligning correctly."
Reynolds still has classes to attend at Stanford. He has arranged with the Eagles coaches to Skype from Palo Alto, Calif., and he will listen to all the Eagles' meetings via podcast. Reynolds also must stay in shape while he's away from the team's regimented program at the NovaCare Complex.
Coach Chip Kelly and his staff had experience with Ertz and defensive back Jordan Poyer in the same situation last season, and a few weeks of missed time should not affect an investment that could last for years. In fact, one quality that the Eagles valued in Reynolds - and most of their draft picks - was a college degree.
Six of the Eagles' draft picks will be college graduates by the end of spring.
"Intelligence is a huge part of what we're looking for in every aspect that we do, whether it's offense, defense, or special teams," Kelly said. "So the fact that they have a degree is [proof] where they are from an intelligence factor. The other thing, it's also: What is their commitment? . . . A lot of people can tell you they want to do this, this, and this. But look at their accomplishments."
Kelly once had Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy speak to his team at Oregon. Dungy made the point that the two teams with the most college graduates from 2000 to 2010 were the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, which combined for 18 playoff appearances.
"There was something to it," Kelly said. "Teams that are really successful seem to have that.
It also helps to have Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But intelligence is one of the reasons that Kelly has placed an emphasis on in-person visits during the predraft process. Each draft pick except Josh Huff visited the Eagles.
Kelly does not care as much about the Wonderlic test, because his experience in college with the SATs demonstrated that some people are not as adept at timed tests. But talking to a player can help determine football intelligence.
"Part of our interview process is we teach them things, and they have to give it back to us," Kelly said. "Like they are a rookie sitting in the room, here's a coverage, here's a route, here's a protection scheme, and you can find out the give-and-take that they'll give back to you from that standpoint."
Reynolds is the son of former Patriots and N.Y. Giants linebacker Ed Reynolds and grew up around the game. He spent three summers as a ball boy at the Giants' training camp. He visited the Eagles' facility when he was a middle school student in Lawrenceville, N.J.
The Eagles targeted Reynolds and had a third-round grade on the safety, so he's a player they liked throughout the process. His talent, size, and intelligence were all points of interest. Now, they just need to wait three extra weeks to see him with the full team.
Reynolds said his mission is to "just make sure when I come back, I'm not too far behind."