The Eagles held their final team meeting on Wednesday. The players cleaned out their lockers. It was Feb. 7, more than a month past when they finished last season – and when most of the league finished this season.
The scouting combine is three weeks away. Free agency is five weeks away. The offseason program begins in 10 weeks. This is what happens when teams make the Super Bowl. The offseason shrinks and the demand for players’ time swells. It’s a small price for having a parade up Broad Street on Thursday, and it’s a schedule with which coach Doug Pederson wants his players to become familiar.
“Get used to this,” Pederson told his team Wednesday morning. “This is the new norm in Philadelphia, playing and hopefully playing into February every year. It’s the new norm, so get used to it. Short offseasons, and let’s do that.”
The players will be lionized in Philadelphia. Deservedly so, too – millions aren’t flooding Center City on Thursday because this happens every season. But Pederson also wants his players to recognize the trappings of success. It’s fine to appear on late-night shows, enjoy the adulation, gather endorsements, and perhaps even seek more lucrative contracts. But who’s going to show up to lift weights in April? When the team has a June mini-camp, how will the players respond? That’s something Pederson reinforced with his players, too.
“These guys are well-deserving of everything now that they are going to be exposed to in the coming weeks and coming months,” Pederson said. “There’s a side of success that’s not the glamorous side and it’s the side that, who is going to hold out in OTAs? Who is going to want the next big contract? Who is going to miss ‘this’ or ‘that’ for an endorsement deal or an autograph signing? It’s the not-so-glamorous side of success. That was a little bit of the messaging this morning to the guys.”
Pederson said he must hold himself accountable, too. There’s more interest in him than ever before. Pederson and his wife went to dinner at Barone’s in Moorestown on Tuesday night, and fans kept approaching his table offering congratulations and sharing stories. There are going be awards and appearances and speaking engagements that are sure to come Pederson’s way. And he’s also deserving, but he knows that the head coach has offseason responsibilities, too.
“I’m just like the players,” Pederson said. “I can’t accept every deal that’s out there. I can’t agree to every speaking engagement out there because my goal is to win another one. If my time is spent doing other things, then that’s not the focus, and that’s where we’re at right now as a team.”
Pederson didn’t sound concerned. He also knows that the roster is going to change. The Eagles have a strong foundation and are not flush with needs at key positions like they were one year ago. But they also found the right mix of chemistry and locker-room accountability. There was an intangible identity with this team that is not always easy to duplicate. Roster turnover means some of those players who were the glue to the roster’s fabric might play elsewhere next season, or not play anywhere at all.
The Eagles didn’t have a 1,000-yard running back, a 1,000-yard receiver, or a 10-sack pass rusher. Pederson noted that the Eagles had “unselfish players,” and it was a topic he raised in the team meeting. He said they could have complained, but they sacrificed for the greater good of the team and “now they sit here today sort of reaping those rewards.” It’s difficult to recreate that formula.
“It’s going to be unique to this football team,” Pederson said. “I can’t tell you what the 2018 team is going to look like because as you know, free agency is a big part of that, and the draft. People come and go. So 2018 will be a lot different, but I think the messaging can be very consistent and stay along those same lines.”
Pederson is confident that the returning players who have tasted this now will want to do it again. He created the expectation when he said this will become the “norm.” As has been the case all season, he expects them to follow his message.
“The guys that want to be a part of that just will do that. They will want to be here,” Pederson said. “I think everybody does want to be here. But as you know, the nature of the business is you can’t keep everybody. It’s just the way it goes. But the ones that are here, my mind-set is to be back again, to do it again and to keep doing it and to keep doing it.”
Pederson indicated that he expects Jason Peters to be the Eagles’ left tackle next season. Peters, 36, is recovering from a torn ACL and MCL and has expressed a desire to continue playing. “If you had to hold a gun to my head, I’d say, ‘Yeah, he’s my starting left tackle,’ ” Pederson said. …Pederson did not give a timetable for Carson Wentz’s recovery from a torn ACL and LCL. …The Eagles signed the following practice-squad players to contracts: wide receivers Rashard Davis, Greg Ward and Bryce Treggs, guard Darrell Greene, cornerback D.J. Killings, and safety Tre Sullivan.
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