Sep 19, 1965 – Philadelphia Eagles running back Earl Dros (34) in action against the St. Louis Cardinals at Franklin Field. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 34-27. (Herb Weitman-USA TODAY Sports)
PHILADELPHIA (C+P) — The Philadelphia Eagles brought back players from the past, showed off the present team and provided their fans hope for a future world championship. Prior to leaving for joint practices later in the week with the New England Patriots, the team held its final public practice Sunday.
There were many differences from the 1960 championship team to the club’s present incarnation. Instead of marching bands, techno music filled the air, and the smell of peanut butter and jelly smoothies wafted in the breeze after the players finished practicing. Buck Shaw was not addressing the media. Chuck Bednarik was there. However, it was not to play 58 minutes in the championship game, it was to be recognized by the fans for his past performance. No doubt about it, the history aspect added a fun nuance to practice.
The current Eagles do share a few similarities with the 1960 team. Just like today’s team, the offense consisted of many weapons including Tommy McDonald, Pete Retzlaff and Billy Ray Barnes. Those Eagles finished with 10 wins, most in the NFL in 1960. If you fast forward to 2014, the Eagles have LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles. The team hopes to lead the league in wins this season as well.
Head Coach Chip Kelly thought positively about the open practice. “I think we always talk about the tradition and what the Philadelphia Eagles are all about. Obviously, the turnout you have here is awesome and to get a chance to get out with all the fans. To play in a special place like this, it is neat for them to understand the history of the team.”
“It’s been amazing,” said Philadelphia starting quarterback Nick Foles. “Just walking down the field knowing that there is so much history. It is an amazing stadium. It’s unbelievable. The fans are unbelievable. It was an honor for us practicing here… It was a blessing.” The sentiment was shared by inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “This is cool. This is my first time being out here. The number of fans that came out to support us. It brought a lot of energy. I enjoyed doing this and hopefully we will be doing this again.”
One player who seemed to be taking the whole experience in was rookie Marcus Smith. Smith, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, appeared to enjoy everything. “I have never seen anything like this. This atmosphere makes you want to go out here and practice hard. This is the first time I’ve ever been out here and seen something like this….I loved it a lot.” Smith has had some new experiences within the last few days. On Friday, he played his first downs of NFL football. Two days later, he had a chance to see some of the franchise’s best players. “I knew a couple of those guys like Trotter. They are a part of Eagles nation, and I could be a part of it.”
The most-unique view of the day came from backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. “I think this is the closest to the Ivy League I will get other than my brother going to Yale.”
Later this week, the Eagles will be heading up to Foxboro, Massachusetts to play the New England Patriots in their second preseason game. Before the game, the Eagles will participate in joint practices with the Patriots. News came out the previous week that cornerback Cary Williams was not fond of the sessions with the Patriots. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, though, is looking forward to facing the Patriots. “I’m excited I get to go against Brady and his receivers and that’s a good time to practice against guys like them. We are going to capitalize off them.”
The Eagles Homecoming ceremony and practice allowed everyone in the building to feel nostalgic for one day, especially since it was at the site of their last world championship. The 2014 Eagles look to end the world championship drought of more than 50 years this season. The players are eager to etch their mark in Eagle’s history. The practice for starting linebacker DeMeco Ryans may have one more added benefit in the quest for a Super Bowl:
“Let’s bring back some of that good luck.”