Nate Sudfeld, a 6-foot-6 quarterback signed to the practice squad over the weekend, had a good first day with the Eagles organization on Monday, with the exception of some small problems with pronouns.
In the quarterbacks meeting room, as he was learning the terminology for different formations, he lapsed into referring to the Washington Redskins, his former employer, as “we,” even though they have now become a “they” part of his life.
When the Eagles split two receivers on each end of the offensive line, it is a “spread” formation. “We call that doubles,” Sudfeld said, before catching himself. “No, they call it doubles.”
It’s an understandable slip for a player who had been with the Redskins until Saturday afternoon, when they waived him rather than keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster. Washington offered Sudfeld a spot on its practice squad, as did several other NFL teams, but he chose to accept an invitation from the Eagles. And there he was on Monday, a day and a half from turning in his playbook, trying to learn a whole new one at the NovaCare Complex. It’s a wonder he could keep his own name straight, let alone his pronouns.
“It’s a weird situation for me. I’m still trying to get used to it,” Sudfeld said. “They said [being cut] was no indictment of me. They said they had needs on defense, whatever that means. It’s a crazy league. Who knows how it will shake out in a year or 10 years.”
At the end of this week, it will shake out with Sudfeld traveling back to Washington, as the Eagles open the regular season against the Redskins in Landover, Md. on Sunday. Conspiracy theorists are sure to assume that Sudfeld was signed in large part because he can open a window on the latest wrinkles that might be hiding within the Redskins offense. A 2016 sixth-round draft pick, Sudfeld was with Washington for nearly 18 months, and just days ago was splitting reps and book work with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins and backup Colt McCoy.
“I’m sure that’s what everyone’s thinking, that they’re just picking me up for the week,” Sudfeld said. “I think [knowing the other system] is overrated, because every week you’re game-planning specifically for that team. I haven’t talked to anyone [here] about the Redskins yet. I’m trying to figure all that out now. We’ll see how it goes.”
Would he feel any compunction about telling tales on an organization that drafted him, developed him, and paid him for more than a year?
“They released me,” Sudfeld said.
Well, yes, there’s that.
Looking around the Eagles locker room Monday, Sudfeld said he didn’t know anyone aside from Carson Wentz, who he went through the combine and draft process with last year, and Nick Foles, who helped recruit him to the University of Arizona when Sudfeld was still in high school. Sudfeld committed to Arizona, but changed his mind when offensive coordinator Seth Littrell went from Tucson to a similar position at the University of Indiana.
In Bloomington, Sudfeld passed for 7,879 yards, throwing 61 touchdowns along with 20 interceptions for the Hoosiers. His size and arm strength are his main attributes. Some of his mechanics have been regarded as liabilities, but he was an intriguing low-round prospect going into the 2016 draft. The Eagles had a formal interview with him at the combine, and texted him after Wentz was selected to wish Sudfeld good luck.
“I’ve had a relationship with the coaches here for a while,” Sudfeld said. “They seemed to have my back. Last season, before the games I’d see them watching me warm up. I think this is a great spot for me to develop and continue to improve. I try not to get overwhelmed with the ‘now.’ I’m a 23-year-old guy, and it’s right for me not to be selfish about ‘now,’ and look at what’s going to be the best for me as a football player in the future…but it’s going to be weird traveling back to D.C. and seeing guys on the field before the game, wearing a different color.”
Sudfeld has worn some variety of red since becoming a quarterback at Modesto Christian School in central California, so his whole color scheme has also been altered by the new job. Assuming the Eagles didn’t just sign him for his obligatory chat with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz this week, his career could change directions, too. The Eagles have a coaching staff designed to help a young quarterback and even the spillover from the Wentz development campaign could help him.
That’s what Nate Sudfeld is hoping, anyway, and hoping he isn’t just being used as a tool who still confuses his pronouns regarding “our” preparation for the opener against “them.” The Eagles wouldn’t do that, would they? No, certainly not.
Plus, they play the Redskins again in October.