“I’ve got a mandatory camp next week, and I’m focused on that.”
A simple statement given by Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson less than 24 hours after the President of the United States decided to cancel the White House Visit granted to the Super Bowl champions. In a week of polarizing adversity, the team handled every situation and the sudden surge in media attention with class and respect, focusing on their personal messages and focusing on the task at hand.
The Eagles will open the doors to their Mandatory Minicamp on Tuesday and this will be the first practice of the offseason in which it’s mandatory for all players to attend. It’s the first time since the thrilling conclusion of Super Bowl 52, that the team will all be reunited in the same room as the franchise prepares to defend its crown.
They say a new week often comes with new opportunities and a new dawn. For the Eagles, that isn’t just because it’s the beginning of Mandatory Minicamp. It’s not just a breath of fresh air away from the politics, where the team can once again focus on preparing for perhaps their most important season in franchise history, but also because after an offseason of controversy prior to last week, the team can finally close the lid on a turbulent few months.
It’s the first time, with the exception of a few workouts in the NovaCare Complex, that newly-signed Michael Bennett will perform a training activity with the rest of the Eagles roster. In what felt like heartbeats after signing with the team, Bennett was indicted on charges of assaulting a paraplegic worker after Super Bowl LI. Little has been made available to the public with regards to the case itself and the Eagles are yet to take any kind of disciplinary action, potentially hinting at the innocence of the three-time Pro Bowler.
If that wasn’t enough to throw the newly crowned champions off course, cornerback Daryl Worley would be arrested. Having only signed with his hometown team just weeks before, he was found passed out in a car at 6AM by Philadelphia police. The former Carolina Panther reportedly became combative and was eventually tasered. A gun was also found at the scene. Worley, who was acquired in a trade that sent Torrey Smith to the Panthers, was subsequently cut from the team.
And then just as it all began to settle down once again, a TMZ report was released stating that Jay Ajayi is being sued for ‘trashing a mansion’ following his first ever Super Bowl win. Admittedly, this is a very small matter in comparison to the aforementioned, but a sticky situation to work through nonetheless.
The Donald Trump controversy may have been the icing on the cake for a team that went an entire season without a single off-the-field controversy during it’s Super Bowl winning campaign. And now, finally, a sigh of relief. It’s back to Football.
Doug Pederson has handled this offseason with a tremendous amount of composure. He’s not exactly a stranger to adversity in his short tenure as Eagles Head Coach so this should come as no surprise. Whether it was the knock-on effect of drafting Carson Wentz after extending the contract of Sam Bradford, dealing with Nigel Bradham who was arrested twice in the space of six months, or handling the holdout by Fletcher Cox for a monster deal, the Eagles Head Coach found a way to build a gritty culture that eliminated outside distractions and channeled everything onto the field.
We’ve seen two offseason’s of intense, competitive and culture-building activities that see players pushing one another to their absolute limits. Pederson was keen to bring back themes such as the 10/10/10 format, implemented by his mentor and former Eagles Head Coach, Andy Reid, and that rampant underdog mentality came flooding along with it.
Avoiding a Super Bowl hangover is easier said than done and it’s safe to say not every Super Bowl champion has had to endure an offseason of headlines and controversy that sought to overshadow one of the most remarkable season’s we have ever seen in the National Football League.
But, much like that very season, the Eagles have overcome every obstacle in their path and will aim to silence their naysayers in the exact same fashion as they did one year ago, by unifying when winds aim to rip them apart and winning with the odds stacked against them. This team has not been fractured by political poison. This team has not been silenced due to outside noise. Now, with the whole gang back together, the race for supremacy resumes and this franchise remains untainted.
Mandatory minicamp brings a new dawn for the Eagles, but they’re the same brothers in arms who know exactly what it takes to win a war…on and off the field.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum