By Al Thompson
Even with the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association to open training camps, there is still an uncertainty about whether there will be a pro football season in 2020.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson, entering his fifth season in that role, talked to reporters on Monday, the day before his veterans were scheduled to report to start the process of getting ready for training camp.
Pederson said he has seen the recent cancellation of Major League Baseball games and the continued surge in COVID-19 cases as well increased hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus throughout the country.
He said he still has total confidence in the Eagles organization to make the NovaCare Complex as safe as possible.
“I’ll say this: My hat goes off to the many, many people in the Philadelphia organization,” Pederson said via Zoom. “I think about our stadium people. I think about the grounds people. I think about (Eagles President) Don Smolenski, everyone that had a hand in getting us where we are today and to come back safely into NovaCare. The protocols that the NFL has put in place, with the Players Association, the agreement there, with all of our doctors, it gives us hope. It gives us excitement moving forward.”
The coach continued on his video conference.
“We understand that the virus is real and we do everything we can in our powers to stay safe, protecting ourselves when we’re in the building, protecting our players, and it’s unfortunate what has happened. But we do have a lengthy set of protocols that we have to abide by, and this is our new normal right now, working in these conditions as probably most of you working in your conditions as well. It’s something that we are going to embrace. We are going to make it a positive. It is what it is, and we’re going to embrace it and move forward.”
Pederson said that when you see how fast a team can be affected by an outbreak of the coronavirus, it is in his best interest and the interest of the team to come up with a plan to not only have backups for every position on the field for his coaches and staff.
“I’ve thought about that quite a bit,” Pederson said. “The closer I got here to camp and being in the building. We have to have a plan for everything, as you know. One of the things that we’ve been faced with, and I think we’ve done a really good job here, is we’ve overcome some of the injuries we’ve had the last couple of seasons. We’ve coached that next guy, or that next player has been able to go in and perform at a high level, but now I think that has to carry over to the coaching staff. I think there has to be a plan in place for any coach or any staff member that may miss a couple days or a couple weeks because of the virus. We are in a different environment and we all have to do our part to protect ourselves, protect our players and our families and hopefully we minimize any setbacks.”
Pederson said he does not want to fall into the trap of guarding his rookies and second-year players. He said just because there were no offseason practices at NovaCare or preseason games this summer to see how his young players are doing, he believes he must let go and let his newer players get out there and play when the season starts.
“As you know, every year, there’s going to be a rookie or two that really steps up and performs and catches our eye,” Pederson said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s a guy on offense or defense. He can be a starter on special teams. We can’t forget that. So that’s what I’m most excited about. As coaches, we have to get our young players caught up extremely fast. I will tell you this: We had a really good offseason, as virtual as it was, with the meetings. We spent some time virtually with our rookies this past week, and these guys are in a really good place mentally.
“Now it’s about taking it to the grass, seeing what they know and then leaning on these guys as much as we can throughout training camp.”
The Eagles are the only team in the NFC East that doesn’t have a new coach.
The Dallas Cowboys hired former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy to take over for fired Jason Garrett.
Former Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera is the new head guy in Washington, replacing fired Jay Gruden.
And former Lansdale Catholic standout quarterback Joe Judge is starting his first head coaching job with the New York Giants, replacing Pat Shurmur, who was let go after just two seasons.
Pederson was asked what his first season might have been like if he had a pandemic to deal with.
“I’ve thought about that with the new staffs just in our division here and in our conference,” he said. “It has to be extremely tough not to be around each other. They spent a little bit of time, probably maybe a few weeks way back in February and March, maybe together, but it would be hard. And then not having your players in the offseason trying to teach a new offense, defense, special teams, I’m sure, is probably difficult in its own right.
“We’ve been blessed,” Pederson continued. “I’ve been blessed going into my fifth year here in Philadelphia and maintaining the staff that I have and adding some great additions to the staff this year. And our players are excited because they are not having to learn a necessarily new offense or defense or special teams. So I’m not necessarily thinking it’s going to be a leg up, but at the same time, it does give us confidence going into camp that we all are on the same page.” ••
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