|National Football League|
LB Kendricks, Eagles rookies get to work
PHILADELPHIA (AP) It didn't take Mychal Kendricks long into his first practice to figure out exactly what his new coaches were trying to do.
"I think the whole thing here is to make us feel uncomfortable," the new Eagles linebacker said, "to see how much we can handle in a short amount of time."
Welcome to the NFL, rookie.
Kendricks and 33 other rookies are among 44 players participating in the Eagles' three-day camp, which opened Saturday at the NovaCare Complex.
Although most of the players in camp will never play in an NFL game - in fact, 13 of them are unsigned rookies who are here on a tryout basis and not even under contract - the coaches will throw a lot at everybody in a short time.
Yes, they want to see who can handle it physically. But more importantly, they want to see who can handle it mentally.
"What can you do in a pressure situation?" said Kendricks, a second-round pick from California. "If you can handle it, you can pretty much handle everything."
Coach Andy Reid and his staff will not be shy about pushing the young players. They expect their rookies to know the playbook, they expect mental mistakes to be kept to a minimum, and they don't want to hear any excuses.
"Going in from college, you feel like you know everything, but I'm just getting critiqued on the littlest things," said rookie running back Chris Polk, who went undrafted despite rushing for more than 4,000 yards at Washington.
"I just really have to be a student of the game and perfect my craft, and really accept the coaching and do whatever they ask me to do. Be the first one in and the last one to leave."
Last year - with the lockout - there were no rookie camps or minicamps, and the Eagles believed one of the reasons they struggled early in the year was a lack of offseason preparation. Philadelphia won just four of the first 12 games on the way to a disappointing 8-8 finish.
That group, laced with free-agent signees, reported to training camp at the end of July and was playing regular-season games six weeks later. This year is a different story. Though offseason workouts are strictly limited by the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement, the coaches still have time to squeeze as much teaching as possible into the handful of practices.
"I think it's a great idea so we don't get thrown in the line of fire when the veterans are here," said second-round pick Vinny Curry, a rookie defensive lineman. "When they're here, everything's going to be crisp. But rookies, we tend to get frustrated, so it's definitely helping us out."
Brandon Boykin, the rookie fourth-round cornerback from Georgia, said he considered making himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior year. If that happened, he would have wound up like the entire Eagles' class of 2011 rookies, who still haven't participated in any minicamps. The first full-team workouts are scheduled for later this month.
"Last year was kind of a weird year," Boykin said. "Me being able to come in with a full season and get all the rookie stuff and all the preseason stuff out of the way, I think that'll definitely help me, help all the rookies.
"We're fortunate to be in a class that gets all the preparation that you possibly can before the season gets here."
And if he turned pro a year ago? Boykin said he fears the transition would have been far more difficult without any spring or summer practices.
"Definitely glad I didn't," he said. "Learned a lot more as a senior and became a better player."
The Eagles can use some of those.
Updated May 12, 2012