womens nhl hockey jerseys A day at Eagles Training Camp
Training camp is the NFL’s great leveler. The players arrive from all over, with varying pedigrees and expectations and number of zeroes on their paychecks. But when the sun is high in the August sky and the hitting is underway, it feels the same for all of them. They talk of brotherhood in this sport, of fraternity. Some of that is the product of the myth makers, but some of it is true, and training camp is where it is born: in the communal living, in the relative isolation, in the shared experience of physical torture.
That brotherhood is why Eagles coach Andy Reid came back to work at Lehigh University the day after he buried his son, Garrett. What seems unnaturally quick to people on the outside is much more understandable to people who have watched the man over the years, and who have witnessed the rituals of an NFL summer.
Because this is what they do. It is part of what players always end up talking about in their graying reminiscences: the great wins, the outlandish characters they played with and the hell they collectively survived in the summertime. The two a day practice schedule is an NFL player’s initiation. To miss it is to miss the context of every experience that follows.
Fans are permitted to view some of it from a grandstand, but the practices are only part of the day, a public sliver of the operation. Dozens of people, many working out of sight, choreograph every minute of the training camp experience for the players, for the coaches and for the people who come to watch.
Some teams have decided that it isn’t worth the bother anymore to pack up and head to a college campus. Instead, they work at home; they put their players in a hotel; and they have their two a days without the fans cheering every long completion and heckling every false start.
But some teams and some coaches still cherish the old ways. Andy Reid is one of those coaches especially now, it seems. And to experience an Eagles training camp is to get a step closer to understanding why.
That’s what SportsWeek has tried to do with the story that follows to pull back the curtain and give a true sense of what it takes for the Eagles to put on what has become a rite of summer. Well before the sun comes up, the lights turn on inside Lehigh University’s main dining hall, at the University Center on the school’s Packer Campus (Lehigh has three separate but contiguous campuses), a 3 mile drive from the school’s athletic complex the Goodman campus where the Eagles will actually hold practice.
The first workers to arrive are pastry chefs, who prepare the desserts to will be served throughout the school’s dining facilities.
Unlike most colleges, Lehigh has a full bakery that prepares fresh baked goods to be served in the dining hall and for the catering staff for special events. The day starts at dawn for Eagles Marketing Manager Poorya Nayerahmadi and his 25 interns, who meet in a snack and equipment storage room in Rauch Field House, just south of where the Eagles practice on Lehigh’s Goodman campus.
There are copies of the schedule for the day taped to the walls, but by week two, everyone pretty much knows the drill.
Each intern most of whom are still in college is dressed similarly, whether they’re male and female: grey T shirts with the angry eagle logo, black shorts and a two way radio.
Nayerahmadi wears the same white T shirt and white shorts that many of the Eagles front office staff and assistant coaches wear at camp.
His radio is always clipped to the inside of his shirt, so he often looks like he is talking into some inner pocket.
He still carries a cell phone for communications not with his intern cadre.
“I try to keep emails for the evening, but there are just times I may have to call back to Philly for something,” he said. I guess most of my kids do, too. The doors to the dining hall open, and the Eagles ball boys are first to arrive.
The two cooks are busy in the kitchen, while the wait staff continually refills the water pitchers on every table and makes sure the dining area stays clean.
During the school year, the Cort is only open during the week, closing after lunch on Fridays.
But when the Eagles are in town, it is open for three meals a day, seven days of the week.
This presents a challenge for Cheryl Ann Lawrence, who has been the Director of Dining Services at Lehigh for 11 years.
“We definitely have to make some adjustments,” she says.
“We borrow a few workers, about six or seven, from the other dining areas on campus, but it can still be tricky.”
With help from her team of interns, Bradley and her group will stock the Eagles Pro Shop the huge merchandise tent that each training camp visitor has to pass through before they make it to the fields and wait on customers looking to purchase everything from Eagles jerseys to Eagles sun block.
The store gets a rush of fans before and after both practices, but more so in the afternoons, now that Head Coach Andy Reid has switched the team’s “hitting sessions” to that time.