The Eagles have a quarterback preparing to play Week 1. He has taken snaps with the first-team offense throughout the first few days of training camp. Fans chant his name when he departs the field, with kids pushing to get his autograph.
It's Nick Foles.
Much of the attention during training camp has gone to quarterback Carson Wentz, and rightfully so; Wentz will be the Eagles starter when he receives medical clearance, and he is the face of the franchise. But Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, has taken the most snaps with the starters this summer. When the Eagles open the preseason next week, Foles will likely be the top quarterback. And if Wentz is not cleared for the season opener despite his evident progress, Foles will play.
"Really focusing on what I have to do right now … no matter what role I'm playing," Foles said. "It alleviates everything around me and makes everything a lot more simple."
Foles explained last week that even he does not know what his label is, and he doesn't care, because he doesn't need a defined role. He said he doesn't need the coaching staff to call him the starter or the backup, because "you're going to get me," and it won't affect him.
The period between minicamp and training camp often allows players to recharge before the season. And though Foles said he enjoyed some down time, he also went on a book tour – his memoir became a New York Times bestseller – and he appeared at the ESPYs. He returned for his seventh training camp with the highest profile he's ever experienced.
"It's definitely different, just because of what the offseason entails," Foles said. "A lot of great things, but you stay sort of busy. So it's sort of nice being out here, playing ball, going to meetings, getting back with the guys. It's therapeutic being back on the field and being in the huddle."
Foles hasn't always looked like the Super Bowl MVP in practices this summer, although a player with Foles' resume would never be judged off four July practices. Plus, Foles has always seemed to be a better game-day player than practice player. But there are also times when he looks every bit the player who earned a trip to Disney World in February.
"I like where Nick's at," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "He's in the right frame of mind. Stepping in that first huddle on a lot of these periods, and he's making some good throws. As you can see, we're pretty good on defense. And those guys are making it challenging for us on offense – particularly early, first day in pads. You can see they can generate a pretty good pass rush if they're back there in a hurry. So, that's only going to make us better."
That Foles is on the field is an upgrade from one year ago. A sore elbow kept Foles out of most of training camp and the entire preseason last summer. There was a question then whether the Eagles would be able to trust Foles if something were to happen to Wentz. That question was answered on Feb. 4.
"It doesn't matter if it's first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-string snaps — any time you get a snap and get to go out there and practice, you build a database of information," Foles said. "Good, bad, whatever it may be, just the ability to be out there feeling great, healthy — it's a wonderful thing."
The last time Foles split first-team snaps during training camp was 2013, when there was a competition with Michael Vick, and it was unclear who the opening-day starter would be until after the second preseason game. Foles is not necessarily competing to win the starting job this summer, but he must prepare to be the opening-day starter.
"I think if you would ask any quarterback in the NFL, they see themselves as a starter," Groh said. "And I think Nick is preparing that way."
Foles said his NFL experiences prepared him for this summer and the uncertainty surrounding his role. Like the Super Bowl run, he emphasizes remaining in the moment and maintaining his perspective. It also helps that he enjoys being a quarterback for the Eagles. Foles said he's been in other places where the way he's viewed is tied to his performance on the field. But he doesn't think his teammates look at him or treat him any differently now that he's the Super Bowl MVP than how they did last summer, when he was an injured backup.