|National Football League|
Set to erase 2011, eager Eagles get back to work
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Vince Young, Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith are gone.
Indeed, the "Dream Team" is now simply the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles.
Coming off a disappointing 8-8 season, the Eagles reconvened as a full team Tuesday for the first time since missing the playoffs last year. It was a season that was defined when Young deemed the Eagles a "Dream Team" in training camp after the acquisitions of Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Brown, Smith and himself. But instead of making a deep run in the playoffs, the Eagles sputtered to a disheartening 4-8 start and failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Eagles began picking up the pieces by opening a two-week organized team activity Tuesday at the team's training facility in South Philadelphia. It will continue with workouts Wednesday and Thursday, as well as three more sessions next week.
"With the expectations, and us not only not meeting our goals, but not making the playoffs, we learned a lot," Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy said. "I think it humbled us. With all the big-time players that we have, we really have to check ourselves and go into the season to prove ourselves.
"I really think all of the hype is out the window and it's a new year. I think there's a lot of pressure for us as players. We have to make sure we do the right things."
The Eagles rallied to win the final four games of last season, but it was too little, too late. In the end, it was just the third season since 2000 that Philadelphia missed the playoffs.
But now, with an overhauled roster, McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and several others getting new contracts, and a promising draft class, the Eagles once again have high expectations.
Just not as much hype.
"Last year, we let a lot of people down," quarterback Michael Vick said, "including ourselves."
The lockout, of course, didn't help. It wiped out all offseason practices last year, and coach Andy Reid blamed the poor start and lack of cohesion on the absence of OTAs and minicamps in a season where the Eagles made an unusually high number of changes.
"We just want to play the best football we can for ourselves, our fans, our families, our coaches, and our organization," Vick said. "We understand it's going to take hard work. Obviously, we didn't have a chance to do what we're doing now last year, so it could've been one of the reasons why we weren't so effective.
"I think now that we have this time, we're going to take full advantage of it and try to be better than we were last year, which we will."
The Eagles haven't won a playoff game since 2008. The three-year winless drought is the longest since the turn of the century.
"Nobody made it this far by laying down for anybody," wide receiver Jason Avant said. "Everything that you do in this National Football League, you have to earn it. Nobody cares if you're the Eagles - your talent, your roster, your quarterback, your receivers. You've got to go out and work hard. And that's it."
So the theme Tuesday was turning the page on 2011 and leaving the disappointment in the past. In other words: Start over ... or else.
"The chemistry felt great," safety Nate Allen said. "It's real encouraging. We didn't have this last year. We were all at home right now and then we went into training camp, and it was like, `All right, you have three weeks, now go play.'
"Last year, it almost seemed like the first part of the season was training camp. So, we're getting this in right now, building chemistry together, getting these reps under our belt as a unit.
"And we're excited."
The Eagles open the season at Cleveland on Sept. 9.
Updated May 22, 2012