It was a work day and the sky was threatening rain, but the season-ticket holders and other invited guests still streamed into the parking lot adjacent to the NovaCare Complex on Friday and made their way down the concrete walk to the practice field.
Merrill Reese and Mike Quick accompanied them every step of the way, as highlights of the radio call from the Super Bowl blared from speakers that lined the path. Apparently, and stop me if you've heard this, Tom Brady's desperation pass fell incomplete and the Eagles won the darn thing. Even if the surprise has worn off over these last six months, Merrill still sounded a little shocked.
"Pretty good crowd today," one of the security guys said. "More than I would have expected."
It was mostly light duty, though. Keep 'em behind the lines. Don't let anybody take pictures after the warm-up session ends. Just a happy bunch of people wearing Eagles gear watching what was taking place on the field, which wasn't even all that much.
Training camp eventually becomes a train speeding toward the season, but for now it is just turning its wheels, just building steam, just pulling out of the station. The players were scheduled to don pads Saturday for "thud" drills – which are just what you would imagine – but real tackling won't happen until next week, and not for long then. Someone once said that training camp doesn't really begin until the first scuffle, when a player takes exception to the manner or degree of the contact he experiences, and there is no danger of that yet.
As the different units – linebackers, offensive linemen, wide receivers, and so on – went through individual drills with their position coaches on different areas of the three practice fields, a large clump of the onlookers stood together to watch four men in red jerseys take snaps on the farthest reaches of the most distant field from where they stood.
Granted, there isn't anything remarkable about watching a succession of defensive backs as they backpedal and then turn, or a long conga of linemen as they rush to grab tackling dummies, but how much more interesting can it be to see Carson Wentz take a snap way over there?
The answer is that it is way more interesting. That is particularly true at a training camp in which nothing else is quite as important to the outcome of the onrushing season. So, people watch and say things to each other like, "He's moving pretty good." And they nod. He's moving pretty good. Yes, he is.
I get it. You get it. There is no single position in any team sport that is as deserving of as much attention and focus as the quarterback in football. Teams rise and fall with them precipitously. The Eagles got to the playoffs last season because of Wentz. What happened after that was freaky and wonderful, but no one wants to make Nick Foles prove that he can do that again.
Three seasons ago, for example, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers played in the Super Bowl. The Broncos were 12-4 in the regular season and the Panthers 15-1. The Broncos had the last gasps of Peyton Manning, not at his best, but still Peyton Manning. The Panthers had Cam Newton, who had a 99.4 quarterback rating to go with 35 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. The following season, Denver was 9-7 with Trevor Siemian at quarterback. Carolina saw Newton's rating drop to 75.8, with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and the Panthers went 6-10. Neither team even made the playoffs.
Things can happen that quickly. There's nothing to indicate it will go like that here, but it is why people watch the man in the red jersey take snaps. Even the writers and broadcasters who chronicle the team every day struggle to find other engaging topics.
There is the identity of the weakside linebacker to consider, and the slot cornerback role, and the guys coming back from injury, and the battle for the fourth or fifth running back spot – now there's a wild one – and the esoterica of what motivates a team after it has won a Super Bowl.
"The goal is to obviously win another one and to win another one and to win another one," said Doug Pederson, who made it sound as if he really thought the answer was obvious.
Nevertheless, all those story lines have their place, because there is a lot of time and space to fill before the season. But there is only one story, just as there are many clowns and balloons and floats in the Thanksgiving parade, but there is only one Santa Claus at the end. So far in camp, Santa and his surgically repaired knee haven't done much, but that was expected.
"We got a lot of time," Pederson said. "Six weeks is a lot of time. A lot of time."
Some of it will be spent looking elsewhere for the people who come down the concrete walk with Merrill and Mike, but Wentz will get most of their attention. That goes for the media, too, and, frankly, the same can be said of the organization. Other things matter, but none as much.
So far, way over there with the other quarterbacks, he's moving good out there. And that's the update. Keep checking back.