In Doug Pederson’s first meeting with the 2018 Eagles to open the offseason program this week, the coach explained how the team is starting from scratch and living the “new normal.”
But the leaders on the Eagles clarified that the “new normal” should not be interpreted as hoisting the Lombardi Trophy atop the Art Museum steps. Rather, the new normal is the process it takes to get there.
“When I hear the term ‘the new norm,’ I’m not thinking about the end result,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said Tuesday. “I’m not thinking about the championships and the parades and all that. I’m thinking about the work that it took to get to where we were. How we started last year in April and grinded and competed all the way throughout. So, for me, that’s kind of the new norm. That’s the standard and the base we’re trying to start from to try to defend that title.”
Quarterback Carson Wentz, who is recovering from a torn ACL, suffered last December, said “there’s a lot more that can be unpacked” about the new normal than winning the Super Bowl. He focused on the culture that was created last year, echoing Jenkins by mentioning the way the Eagles practiced and approached each day of work. That approach helped them thrive as underdogs. Good luck playing the underdog card this season.
“I don’t think guys in our locker room will ever lose the mindset that…we will always be the hunter,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We’re extremely hungry for sustained success in this city. We’ve tasted it one time, and that’s something that you never want to give up. We’re hungry to repeat. Obviously, it’s a brand-new team. You can’t just do exactly what we did last year and expect to have the same result. And it’s not going to be easy, by any means.”
Workouts are voluntary. The first two weeks are strength-and-conditioning sessions. The following three weeks include individual drills. The 10 organized team activities, which are the closest resemblance to actual football practices, are May 22-24, May 29, May 31, June 1, and June 4-7. The mandatory minicamp will be June 12-14, which is the only time players are required to attend.
The players arrived at a facility that doesn’t just have a new trophy, but also new signage and graphics to commemorate their magical season. Those displays will serve as daily reminders of what the Eagles accomplished.
When the players are out in the city, they get those reminders, too. Ertz is thanked often in Philadelphia. At the Sixers games, the players are celebrated as defending Super Bowl champions. Success is fun to enjoy, bit hard to maintain.
“For me personally, success is a lot harder to deal with than failure,” Jenkins said. “I thrive off people telling me I couldn’t do [it] or [am] not good enough. That motivates you. But you can easily start believing the hype when people here in April start telling you why you’re the favorite to repeat. …You lose focus of the day-to-day grind. That’s up to the veterans like myself, other guys on the team, the coaches, to make sure we’re not looking or listening to anything else out there but what we’re doing today.”
So Jenkins wants his teammates to forget last year. The players soaked in the celebration for the past two months. Beating the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game doesn’t mean the Eagles will beat the Vikings when they play this season. He wants the veterans to spend the spring setting the pace for 2018 – not reliving 2017.
“I think it’s important, as quickly as we can, to put last season behind us and focus on the here-and-now and what’s it going to take to win with the guys we have, and accomplish something with this team in particular,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins would not even talk about repeating. He said the roster isn’t even filled yet. Next week’s draft is a major part of the roster assembly. The offseason workouts are more for individual improvement.
There’s no denying this year’s offseason is different from how it’s ever been. That’s not only because the Eagles won, but also because they played in February. In many previous offseasons, the Eagles finished in early January and had ample time to rest. This year, the Eagles had only about nine weeks off to physically recover. Of course, the Eagles would gladly take that as their new normal, too.
“I know Doug and the coaching staff are going to be smart in the way they deal with our bodies, knowing we’ve had pretty much a month less of recovery time than we normally do and we played a lot longer,” Jenkins said. “We have confidence we’re going to take care of that in the offseason.”
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