What do you make of the first few days of nonviolent training camp? I don’t know what to say until the pads are a-pounding and a-clanking.
I do know Philly and national media reporters outnumbered Eagles players 68-34 at yesterday’s opening practice. Is that enough evidence for you and I to realize that NFL football is more about entertainment, and seemingly less about pure sport? The media is so hungry for NFL happenings it is scary.
David George is a newbie on the PE.com media staff. But I liked his summary of opening training camp so much I had to reproduce it here:
“Defensive end Derek Barnett, the team’s first-round pick, might be counted upon to provide meaningful minutes for the team this year. While aware of lofty expectations, Barnett indicated he feels no pressure because he doesn’t believe there’s a harder critic out there than himself.
“There’s no nerves coming back in here, I’m more anxious I’d say,” Barnett said, “I’m excited to put the pads on and I’m excited to get the season started because it’s been a while since I played a real game.”
“Rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey is ready to put the questions about his size to rest. The lightest player on the roster at 5-8, 176 pounds, Pumphrey has grown accustomed to the critique, but let’s his playing speak for itself.
“I was ready to roll,” Pumphrey said. “I didn’t mess up not once today in practice, plays wise. I feel very comfortable in the offense.”
Third-round cornerback Rasul Douglas was aware of some of the mistakes he made during the spring practices and used the time before Training Camp to fix them.
“It was strong at first because we were only running a few coverages,” Douglas said of his performance earlier in the spring. “Then, once we started learning a few coverages I just found myself mentally messing up checks and stuff. I could process the first call, but once I had the second call I had to process that and the play was already snapped.”
Douglas worked out in California with former NFL defensive back Jason David along with a number of other cornerbacks from the 2017 draft class. His persistence on improving his technique, eye discipline, and familiarizing himself with the playbook showed as the cornerback was responsible for a few pass breakups in practice. Undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement focused his offseason objective on shredding a few unwanted pounds. Since signing with the Eagles, Clement has trimmed down 12 pounds, from 227 to 215.
“I spent a lot of time on the conditioning part,” Clement expressed. “I really didn’t touch weights too much. It was all body weight stuff. I just made sure that I slimmed down coming into camp. I feel great. Coming in and out of my routes, running, I feel a lot lighter on my feet. I just want to show the coaching staff I can be a lighter back and more versatile.”
Another rookie free agent, Greg Ward, continues his transition from college quarterback to NFL wide out. The former signal-caller showed flashes at receiver during 7-on-7 drills when he made an impressive one-handed grab in the end zone. Ward spent some of his time between the minicamp and Training camp in North Dakota working with quarterback Carson Wentz and the other wide receivers.
“It was good to get to know the people on the inside and just have fun,” said Ward. “We put in hard work and had fun after that.”
“The rookies will look to build upon their debut performances Tuesday and Wednesday before the remaining Eagles veterans return to NovaCare Complex for the first full-team practice Thursday.”
Very cool reporting there, David George, despite the corporate muzzle you are required to wear.
Then there’s the obligatory PR move the Eagles make every year it seems, signing an obscure talent to garner fan interest in hoping this kid makes the team. They blew it with Danny Villanueva a couple of years ago, as his military back-story evaporated in Philly before the Steelers claimed him and turned him into an all-pro quality offensive tackle.
This time it’s a Canadian rugby player.
I know, we have to reach out to our Canadian and Australian and New Zealand fan bases—I have no problem with that.
But this camp signing seems like a real reach.
Adam Zaruba is a star on the Canada Sevens national rugby team. The 26-year-old is 6-5, 265 pounds and wrapped up the World Series season in May by leading Canada to a bronze medal at the tournament in London. He tried out for the Eagles on Sunday, but will not be able to return until he is granted a visa. But the Birds signed him to a contract for training camp.
He is, however, no stranger to the gridiron. The North Vancouver native played football at Carson Graham Secondary School and was recruited to continue his career at Simon Fraser University, but he told Patrick Johnston of The Province that “it didn’t work out.”
Zaruba turned to rugby and was on the national team by 2014. Following the recent World Series season, he was contacted by an agent trying to find rugby players who might be interested in making the switch to football.
He is not the first rugby player to join an NFL team. Jarryd Hayne signed with the 49ers in 2015 as a running back and return specialist. Hayne made the 53-man roster out of Training Camp and made his NFL debut in Week 1 of that season, but he spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He retired after one year and returned to rugby because he didn’t want to have to learn a new playbook after a coaching change was made.
As our Australian correspondent Beans points out, the rugby player at the international competition level offers a ton of extra cardio energy to the potential of the American game. However, most of the Australian rules rugby players we’ve seen so far have been punters and/or place-kickers. So we have little background info so far to evaluate rugby guys as position players.
Eh… what the heck?
Give this kid Zaruba a shot. It’s a step in the right direction if you are serious about recruiting international talent. I know of many teams in major league baseball right now who are bemoaning their lack of international scouting results or resources. The NFL and the Eagles ought to perk up to the international scene before they are caught flat-footed by the ultimate decline of youth football in concussion-obsessed America…