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A look inside Rookie Minicamp

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Dave Spadaro

This is not a weekend for hot takes. The Eagles’ 2022 Rookie Class is at the NovaCare Complex for an introductory deep dive into the way of life in this organization, and that includes everything from making the most of the time in the classroom, the ability to translate from a condensed playbook to the practice field (no pads, no contact), working in the team environment, and learning names.

In the span of just a couple of days, the players who just last week joined the Eagles via the NFL Draft or the post-draft period learn a slice of life as a Philadelphia Eagle. And everything is coming at them fast, faster, fastest.

“It’s been exciting, a little bit of a whirlwind, you know, meet everybody, see new faces, see familiar faces, and learn everybody’s name,” second-round draft pick center Cam Jurgens said. “You’ve got your playbook, you’ve got everything coming at you all at once, and it’s fun and exciting.

“Just glad to be here.”

They’re all here for a reason, including the handful of players in attendance on a tryout basis. There are only 90 roster spots on an NFL team right now, and the reason these players are here is because the Eagles see something in them. Every moment counts. Every rep on the field means something.

A total of 42 players took to the practice bubble on Friday (the rain in Philadelphia is expected to be heavy all weekend) and went at it in helmets, shells, and shorts. The energy was great, the tempo was fast, and the mood was that of an extended teaching session because, in effect, that’s what it was. Tight ends coach Jason Michael, for example, had two players at his disposal – sixth-round draft pick Grant Calcaterra and tryout player John Harrar, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound former basketball player from Penn State and nearby Wallingford, Pennsylvania. Michael worked with both players on the little things like stance at the line of scrimmage – two-point or three-point – and footwork and the nuances of running the routes. Coaches coach because they love to educate and that’s what this weekend is for.

The players know it. They aren’t here to change the world in two days on the practice field and in the classroom. They are here to improve their game.

“It’s been good so far. First day, kind of doing football stuff, it’s been really good,” Calcaterra said. “A lot of information being thrown at us and everything, but I’m trying to prepare the best I can and get better every day. We got a pretty condensed version (of the playbook) in Rookie Minicamp just because there’s a lot of information. We did a walkthrough a little bit ago and it’s really cool. I like how the tight end is used in the offense, doing a lot of different things, so it’s been exciting to learn it.”

Along the way, the coaching staff has its first real chance to learn more about the players and their personalities. Much of the pre-draft time spent with prospects is scripted, so this is more real, more raw. First-round draft pick defensive tackle Jordan Davis was relaxed and eager to get on the field as he met the media and opened by wishing all of the mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day. Second-round selection center Cam Jurgens – who has one of the most developed and rock-solid bodies a rookie has ever had here – regaled with his personality and a story on how a tornado that touched down near his Nebraska home sent his entire family, except his grandmother, into a basement shelter area just as Jurgens was drafted last Friday night.

It was fun. It was football. It was a group of young hopefuls setting out on realizing lifelong dreams.

“The last couple of days have been crazy. A lot of moving around, just getting acclimated with the people, the building, and the staff,” Davis said. “We’re working our way up. Working our way in. Getting acclimated with the scheme and the culture and the people. It’s really just a learning experience, just to get a little taste before everybody else (the veterans) comes back in, before we really get to the grind.”

Bonding. Connecting. Learning. Teaching.

It all goes hand in hand for this week and through the remainder of the offseason before the team breaks in June. The step-by-step process is underway as the coaching staff and the personnel department eyeball the rookies and see how they handle their business.

“It’s the moment I have had dreams about since I was a kid,” third-round pick linebacker Nakobe Dean said on Thursday as the rookies arrived. “We’re professionals now and this is our job, so the expectations are high. I’m ready for that and I’m excited about it and what’s ahead for me here, taking care of my business and being accountable.”

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