Nick Foles will play in his first game since the Super Bowl on Thursday – and it comes against the team he beat in the Super Bowl. It's a serendipitous matchup for the Super Bowl MVP, who missed the Eagles' preseason opener last week with a muscle strain in his neck/trapezius area. He has practiced all week and is ready for his preseason debut against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
"Pretty familiar with the opponent," Foles said after Tuesday's practice. "Obviously, it's a new season, new personnel. … It'll be fun just to be back on the field. Obviously, it's the last team we played."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told WEEI radio in Boston that he also expects to play for the first time this preseason on Thursday. That will set up the Brady-Foles matchup that was the subject of so many Super Bowl storylines.
Foles said he still hasn't spoken to Brady since the Super Bowl – "We both have a lot going on in our lives," he added – and tried to downplay the interest in his receiving any belated congratulations from the future Hall of Famer.
"I have all the respect in the world for him," Foles said of Brady. "I think everyone is making a really big deal out of this and it's not a big deal at all. I've talked to him before and he's someone I always looked up to. You've got to admire someone who's probably the greatest ever. And he's still going strong."
Foles spent time with Brady when the two teams practiced with each other during Chip Kelly's tenure. The Patriots visited Philadelphia in 2013 and the Eagles made a return trip in 2014.
For what it's worth, Foles said he hasn't spent much time thinking about the Super Bowl this week despite the familiar opponent. (Foles talked about the game once or twice during the offseason.)
"Not any reminiscing," Foles said. "This is a new season, new people, new players. We wear the same logos as last year, but we both have a new identity."
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He doesn't know what type of reception to expect in Foxborough. Preseason crowds tend to pale in comparison to what comes in autumn. Coach Doug Pederson has said he retired the Philly Special, so there won't be any stark reminders of February. But if Eagles fans find their way to Massachusetts, there might be a reminder or two of the 41-33 final score.
Pederson would not reveal how long Foles will play, only saying that Foles will "get a few plays in this game." The starting offense didn't finish the first quarter in the second preseason game last year. Its shift lasted 17 total plays, with three three-and-outs and a turnover, so the lack of rhythm might have affected playing time. It's reasonable to expect Foles to get a similar amount of work on Thursday, although he'll play without some of his top skill-position players, including wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. But for Foles, there's value in playing a live game – especially after missing the entire preseason last year.
"For me, it's the feel of the game," Foles said. "You're going to get emotions. Being out there in a stadium, playing an opponent. Just feeling those emotions again and getting a feel for the game. You're coming out in practice and compete every day, but game day is a little different. There's a lot more on the line."
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Foles has impressed since returning from injury last weekend. His practice on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field might have been his best one yet. The Foles-to-Mike Wallace connection has been apparent, and the Eagles are expected to introduce their deep threat to the offense on Thursday after he also missed the opener.
Thursday marks three weeks until the Sept. 6 season opener. Carson Wentz expects to increase his practice activity next week and still hopes to return by Week 1. He admitted it will be "close." Regardless, Foles must prepare to play in the opener – even if he doesn't quite know yet whether he will start. All he knows at this point is that he will start on Thursday.