Michael Perez/AP
Michael Perez/AP

Scenes from an Ongoing Tour of Training Camps

Saints doing some hitting. E.J. Manuel taking shots downfield. RGIII getting his swagger back. The NFL's first week back was full of memorable sights, but the most impressive was a second-year coach making his 10-6 team even better

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — This is what a real training-camp practice sounds like, via the verbal stylings of New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his defensive coach, Bill Johnson.

The scene: First padded Saints practice of camp … Sunday morning, 9:19 a.m. … defensive line group in the southwestern end of the brand-new field at The Greenbrier … grass like an Augusta fairway (and I’m not kidding) … cool morning, about 71 … storm clouds rolling in from the west, white cumulus ones interrupted by the Allegheny Mountains—in fact clouding the view of the homes of Nick Faldo and Jerry West … the nine-man defensive-line group stretching and warming up before hitting someone else for the first time since January.

Ryan, moving from man to man:

“Hit today. Hit. Hit. Be physical. Be physical. Get the ball out! Lotta life. Let’s go. Let’s go, D. C’mon now. First practice in pads. F—in’ pads!! Let’s go!”

The linebacker group joined the defensive linemen. One by one, the players lined up and attacked the individual sled. One after one, all of them plowed into it with their hands and upper bodies, lifted it up and tossed it aside.

“All right!” Ryan said. “Now this is football.”

Defensive line coach Bill Johnson, left, and coordinator Rob Ryan watch linebacker Rufus Johnson Jr. stand the individual sled up. Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan is on deck. (Photo by Peter King/The MMQB)
Defensive line coach Bill Johnson, left, and coordinator Rob Ryan watch linebacker Rufus Johnson Jr. stand the individual sled up. Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan is on deck. (Photo by Peter King/The MMQB)

The group finished. Johnson began hustling to the next drill.

“Come on, Bill!” said Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan. “We always do two!”

“All right, baby!” Johnson said. “Let’s go!”

A second shot for everyone at the sled ensued. A few minutes later players lined up on either side of the ball for an inside-running drill. No tackle, but the defense could stand up the ball-carrier with a hard thud and try to strip the ball. Lots of hype and excitement here, followed by a couple of runners shaking loose and getting outside.

Ryan: “F—in’ lettin’ them run through you like paper! Awful!”

Next play: Running back Khiry Robinson got eaten alive inside. Never made it out of the mugging throng.

And so it ebbed and flowed, the first padded practice of a promising season. It was a fun scene, but the most impressive 20 minutes I spent in Week 1 on the Training Camp Tour goes to…

* * *

Philadelphia Eagles
Saturday, July 26
Eagles facility, Philadelphia
Chip Kelly, unplugged

I’ve had only two extended conversations with Kelly since he was named coach of the Eagles 19 months ago. To say I know him well would be folly. But I’m starting to get a feel for him. Before his first training camp practice of the season on Saturday, we spent time in his office, and when we parted, I thought how much he reminded me of Jimmy Johnson when Johnson entered the league 25 years ago. Respectful of the other coaches and teams, but they aren’t going to dictate what he’s going to do. Totally confident that his style will work in the NFL. Unlike Johnson, Kelly’s not brash on the outside. Like Johnson, he knows deep down his way will win. Johnson brought a small, fast defense into a league that was going bigger and bigger. It worked. Kelly brings a fast-break offense from Oregon, and in the second half of the season, with different personnel groupings and a quarterback who could keep it all straight, the team went 7-1.

Chip Kelly is back for year two after leading the Eagles to a 10-6 record and NFC East division title in his first season as head coach. (Michael Perez/AP)
Chip Kelly is back for year two after leading the Eagles to a 10-6 record and NFC East division title in his first season as head coach. (Michael Perez/AP)

He also is the kind of guy who … I’ll put it this way. Imagine Ford was getting stale making cars (imagine that!), and execs there pursued a Honda VP to rejuvenate the company, and in the interview the Honda guy said five or six things that made the Ford team think, “Why didn’t we think of that?” That’s Kelly.

The five or six things he said Saturday that made me think:

The biggest surprise of his first year and a half on the job. “The hype. [Director of public relations] Derek [Boyko] asked me the question and said I couldn’t say it … What’s the worst thing about the league? I said the draft. I mean, the hype that goes into the draft is insane. Totally insane. The biggest thing for me is that everybody thinks whoever you drafted or whoever you signed is now gonna be a savior. They come in just like me and you come in as freshmen in high school or freshmen in college, or your first year on the job at Sports Illustrated—you’re not telling people what to do, you’re just trying to figure out what room to go to. I think a lot of times the hype turns into really, really hard times for the individual who got picked, because there’s so many expectations of everyone building them up to be Superman because they had three months to write about them and talk about them. Then when they get picked, they’re a very, very good prospect, but there’s a learning curve when you go from any job out of college into a company. If you take a job at Wells Fargo when you get out of college, your first day of the job they don’t say, ‘He’s our first-round draft pick, he’s the savior to the company!’

“I think the byproduct to the hype that bothers me, is that to some guys it’s overwhelming for them. The NFL has their Rookie Premiere and they’re out there getting all these pictures taken and they’re missing practice time to go out to California and they’re treated like gods, and I’m like, I don’t know if he’s going to start. That’s not fair. And the analysis … We drafted [pass-rusher] Marcus Smith in the first round, and Jordan Matthews in the second round. Then you listen to people around here that say, ‘Well, we don’t like their draft. If they had taken Matthews first and Smith second, we would give them an A.’ Who cares who went one and who went two? It’s almost like there’s a lot of scrutiny on Marcus Smith because he went one, but Jordan gets a pass because he fell to the second round. If you ask both those individuals, they have the same goals and aspirations and they’re training exactly the same way. It’s just how people perceive things, and I think a lot of that has to do with the hype.

“Jerry Rice dropped a lot of balls when he was a rookie. He was a strong kid. He took it. But now, for some of these guys, it crushes them. It’s no different than bringing a pitcher up before you should and he gets racked. He’s a stiff. Send him back to the minors. There’s a maturation process for everybody. There’s no other profession like it. The hype part is just constant.”

Training Camp Tour 2014

The MMQB is traveling the country to report on all 32 teams and their training camps, with behind-the-scenes stories and insight from Peter King, Greg A. Bedard, Jenny Vrentas, Robert Klemko and more. TRAINING CAMP HUB

On not seeming emotional—ever. “Oh, I get pissed off. Yeah. I have a lot of friends who are Navy SEALs, and I respect what they do. Part of their ethos is ‘I don’t advertise the nature of my work, nor do I seek recognition for my actions.’ We all have jobs to do. We’re not in this to see our names in the paper or have people say good things about you. Or we shouldn’t be. I love practice. I love being out on the field. I love game day. The sound bytes and ESPN and all those other things, that’s not of any interest to me.”

On players buying into Kelly’s advanced nutrition program. (Note from me here. I asked LeSean McCoy about Kelly’s emphasis on nutrition. “I eat better than I ever have,’’ McCoy said. “Chip says things like, ‘Think back to your greatest games. How was your preparation that week? Did you get your rest? Did you eat right? And think of games you weren’t great. How were your habits that week?’ I got lighter last year. I’m maybe 209 now. I was about 10 pounds heavier the year before. And there’s no question I make people miss better now. I just feel better.”)

Kelly: “I believe nutrition ideas have helped. I think that obviously our job is to be educators. So we’re educating them on what’s gonna make them the best football player that they can possibly be. We have to find people that are gonna use that information. That’s the key ingredient. We have a lot of guys here that are thirsty for knowledge. They eat up what we’re teaching. We’re not babysitting them. We don’t go home and watch what they eat. Nor should we. I want a bunch of guys that … We’re gonna provide you with everything we possibly can for you to be successful, but you have to do it. You have to work. You have to be the one that adopts those philosophies yourself. We don’t have you on lockdown. Nor should we. I don’t want guys like that.”

Changing the practice week to a faster pace and heavier work load later in the week. “We’re not walking through. We’re running. Always running.”

Treatment of rookies. We try to accept everyone when they first come in here. We’ve never had a rookie show… It’s difficult when you’re a rookie. You’re just trying to fit in. Then you have to get them to acclimate to offense, defense, special teams. All the other stuff that’s so different and they now have to worry about. Then to have to do other things on top of it? We try to be very accepting when young guys come in here and welcome them to what we’re doing. I think our older guys by and large have been really good with that.”

Predictions. “No one knows. I don’t know. I don’t know anybody that does know. I was asked after the draft, ‘Give yourself a grade.’ I was like, ‘I have absolutely no idea.’ But it’s the truth! No one knows. I’ve said it all along. Everybody says, ‘What a great job by the Patriots getting Tom Brady in the sixth round.’ If you knew he was gonna be that good, you should have taken him in the first. No one knows. We all kind of luck out.”

And so it went.

 

When we talked about year two, Kelly was very coach-like. No magic pills here. Just progress. Slow and steady progress. “Last year,’’ he said, “we grew as the season went on. We started off at 3-5 in the first eight, then finished 7-1. It was evident to us as coaches that we were growing weekly. It started to show up on the scoreboard. Just guys getting more comfortable in what we’re doing. Guys being able to finish other guys’ sentences, instead of turning to look to somebody that has to tell them what to do, and then having to do the thinking they have to do themselves. In the short time that we have them, it’s hard. We knew there were going to be growing pains, because it was a total new offense, defense, and special teams system than the existing guys had ever had. What excites me is these guys are very invested in what we’re doing and really, really want to be good. They don’t just say it. Their actions back that up.”

A few interesting points about year one of Kelly’s Eagles, from Neil Hornsby and Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus. Nick Foles is so much more a Kelly quarterback than Mike Vick was. Last year, Foles led all NFL quarterbacks with a 131.8 rating when blitzed. Vick’s rating: 78.4. That says Foles can think quickly under pressure, and a Kelly passer also has to think quickly because the offense is moving fast anyway.

Jahnke unearthed a great one here: The Eagles, particularly with 2013 rookie Zack Ertz, got great at multiple tight end packages. In the first half of the season, they used one back and two tight ends 17 percent of the time. In the second half, they used one back and two tights 33.4 percent of the time. Ertz contributed four regular-season touchdowns, all in the second half of the season. Now, Brent Celek, Ertz and James Casey are in their second year in the new offense, and they’ll be better—and more productive, most likely.

Finally: The line learned on the run as the season went on, and was superb in the second half. The five offensive linemen allowed 199 quarterback disruptions (sacks, knockdowns or pressure) in the first eight games, only 57 in the last eight.

On the practice field Saturday, Darren Sproles was running around from three spots—the backfield, the slot, out wide. Big target Matthews worked with the second unit—maybe not for long. DeSean Jackson will be missed, but as The MMQB’s Greg Bedard said watching the workout: “No one person will replace Jackson. Chip’s scheme will.”

It’s going to be a fascinating year two. If the Eagles continue the fast-track of the last two months of last season, Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans are going to have competition for late January football in the NFC.

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201 comments
LJSpivak
LJSpivak

Flacco has a little bit of counter-culture to him?  I'd love to know what you have in mind.  This is the guy whose own Dad called him dull, who majored in accounting in college, celebrated a Super Bowl win by stopping for some McNuggets, summers at the Jersey shore like he always did, and pretty religiously attends the extended family pizza Fridays.  I think most Ravens fans are quite content knowing all of the above.  Joe can be as dull, and cool, and ordinary as he likes.  So long as his second six years are as good as his first, we'll be very happy campers.

Ciscos
Ciscos

Year two of the Saints defense under Rob Ryan.  The extra year grasping his concepts should help improve that defense.  Dumbest thing Jerry Jones do was letting that guy walk. That's besides the point tho. The Saints still get the bonehead award for trading Reggie Bush, a constant threat on the field, for drafting Mark Ingram, who really can't get further than 3-4 yards down the field.  And who, quite frankly, isn't a threat to anyone on the field. 


Chip Kelly, like I said yesterday is in the zone of finding out if his offensive philosophy will truly work in the League or not. DCs from every other team have had time to study film and develop new schemes. It'll be interesting to see what they've come up with.

busherbee
busherbee

Godell dismisses domestic violence.

CliffHaggenjos
CliffHaggenjos

Thought about Manziel-If I was his teammate and saw a photo like the one you referenced, I might start to question his commitment to the team and to winning. Might wonder if he felt the same way about his craft as I do. Might question his decision making, and perhaps begin to question my confidence in him as a potential leader. Not a good start at being the "guy" in Cleveland.

theYerg
theYerg

there DOES need to be more education by the NFL and roger goddell on the topic of domestic violence.  1 in 4 women in the US will be abused by a partner at some point in their life.  statistically the same number of women that are affected by breast cancer.  the only difference is that we can prevent domestic violence through education and break the cycle.  those who grew up in abusive households are more likely to become abusers.  and there is never anything a woman can do to "provoke" an abuser, contrary to what stephen a. smith thinks.  volunteer for an afternoon and you will understand why his remarks and a two game suspension are offensive to millions of survivors and the friends and family of those who didn't get help in time.

-Jared Yerg

Founder of Beards BeCAUSE


hozay.camp
hozay.camp

I play a lot of fantasy football. I once drafted Ray Rice with my last pick. He sucked last year & I would still brag about it. Now, no where near my draft board. Not that I don't make mistakes. Big ones but he's a little big tank unloading on a female. As Chris Rock would say in this situation. Oh there's a reason to hit a woman. You just don't do it.

gary7
gary7

Can't believe Snyder and Allen let any of you around any R E D S K I N S  Players or Coaches, but you all being the hypocrites that you are I guess they felt like taking the high road and letting you ill-informed lackeys in.

ianlinross
ianlinross

Yes Allen Barbre, "mitigated disaster" for the Packers. A swinging saloon door straight to Aaron Rodgers.

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

Amazing how many people come here seemingly only to complain about how bad King is.

JimCody
JimCody

Wow, over half of this article was about football. That has to be some kind of record, Peter.

BillPetrello
BillPetrello

This will be the LAST article I read from Mr. King until he apologizes for how he reported the NFL's action toward Mr. Rice.  I was hoping to read an apology from him.  Sadly, he failed.  I said this before and I'll say it again, "If Mr. King was reporter only and NOT commentator, then why did he NOT ask Mr Goodell if he considered the bus incident in DC in September when Ravens players were involved in an incident where a player was hit with a champagne bottle by a stripper on the bus who was defending herself when deciding the penalty.  The Ravens have chosen NOT to do anything when this CLEARLY shows a pattern of violence in these Ravens players regarding women!  


The NFL coming out today saying it was "fair" is a total joke.  I am disgusted at how the NFL holds so little concern for women...yet will fake concern for Breast Cancer awareness.  2 games is a joke and the fact the Ravens could have added to the suspension themselves tells me all I need to know about that organization.  Ozzie, you caved here.  NFL, you too. Mr. King, get in line.

Test-Icicles
Test-Icicles

Even is Manziel is a screaming success in the NFL, he'll still have haters. That "I can't hear you I've got so much money" clip has got to be one of the Top-5 d-bag videos of all time.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

again remember pete a few years ago big ben had two sexaual harrassment accusastions lobbed at him, but never ever charged, never, and guess what big ben got, as we had no video, only the women's words 6 games no charges, down to 4, here we have charges filled, part of the video released, and the nfl and goodell saw the other video and all rice gets is 2 games, taking of 2 game checks and a 3rd and oh yeah nice also to pete to overlook the fact that the fine could've been bigger, had goodell used rice's base salary this year and not his 2013 salary, as the fine rice could've paid should've been 7 figures, but goodell also decided to help the ravens out by fining him an ammount from last year.  goodell needs to be fired, as he is no longer the hammer of goodell and is just like uncle bud serving at the owners pleasure and instead of doing the right thing, instead being weak and doing nothing

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

How would you like to come out of the shower and have dozens of men and women staring at your junk. This is what management and media do to male pro-sport athletes. They have effectively silenced male athletes on this. They face fines and discipline by the leagues and vilification in the media. Look up an article by Shuana Richer in the Globe & Maillast year. It was the of the most disgusting, vulgar and voyeristic pieces of shaming thrash I have ever seen. You would never, ever see women being put into situations of forced nudity, ever, let alone a man writing an article like that about women. I stopped supporting pro team sports long ago because of this. These men are owned, and are treated as such. Nor do I think pro-sport an appropriate role model for boys. It tells them that their role models have no right to boundaries. In this day and age that's the last message that young men should be getting. On so many levels this is wrong. I will not pay for any endeavour that treats grown men like this.


LenaBrun
LenaBrun

Why is the Ray Rice suspension not the major story today? King have regurgitated repeatedly over the legal name of the Red Skins, yet can not bring himself to dwelve into the extremely poor performance by Godell, NFL and Ravens in how the Rice suspension have played out.


Poor job by Godell

Poor job by NFL

Poor job by Raves

poor job by Peter King

stagger
stagger

@Ciscos  Meh, the Saints got rid of Bush for Sproles, which was an upgrade IMO. I agree with the bonehead award for moving up in the draft for Ingram, however. He's just not good.

evetsyarsh
evetsyarsh

@Go_Niners! I actually take his football picks, bet the opposite, and do quite well. Never fails. So he is a must read for me.

Mike26
Mike26

@CobyPreimesberger Coby:  more periods, fewer commas.  Peter just may choose your question/issue someday for the Mailbag - if he can ever fully comprehend it.

evetsyarsh
evetsyarsh

@alan.fournier49 If this is your major issue then you need to get out more. I'm sure Kapernick is so traumatized he had to go out and pose for that nudie athlete magazine they put out. I mean these are grown adults, not scared little children cowering to hide their little bits. They work on their bodies and are proud of themselves. And what does your insecurities have to do with peter king anyway? I think also the message you think "young men" are getting is unique to you.

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@alan.fournier49 :  I just read the story authored by Shawna Richer that you mentioned and I didn't read anything vulgar nor voyeuristic except the stories related by her and other female sportswriters about players being vulgar to them.  I'm afraid you have your head so far up your rear end that all you see is crap.

Here's the link, make up your own minds what the story is about:


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/a-womans-eye-view-of-the-mens-locker-room/article11717125/?page=1

ianlinross
ianlinross

@alan.fournier49 Is this the same Shawna Richer who was fired as an editor in New Brunswick for running a story in 2009 that resulted in the paper printing a front page apology to the Prime Minister of Canada?

blynder
blynder

@alan.fournier49

I believe there is a "grace period" where media are not allowed in NFL locker rooms immediately after a game so that players can do the things they need to do.  Now I'm not a pro football player and never will I be lol - so who knows if that time is actually appropriate or adequate for that use.  It *might* provide an opportunity for those who do not wish to be viewed starkers to get showered and cleaned up before the press arrives.  Let me stress that *MIGHT* bit; cause 20 minutes after a game just isn't enough time in my estimation.

Wombat
Wombat

@alan.fournier49 1) These guys are paid bazillions of dollars for this scrutiny. They can leave if they want to

2) Most guys don't give a crap who sees them starkers... admit it, we'd all run around like that if we were that young and in that good condition. You don't hear them crying about it. It's a non-issue.

Wombat
Wombat

@LenaBrun Your outrage is noted but will have little, (actually no), effect. Sadly the news cycle has passed this item by...

Mike26
Mike26

@LenaBrun Probably because it was so reported, rehashed and rehashed from the rehashing that there was nothing new to say.  It's obvious that PK doesn't have a strong enough opinion he wants to share with it, so he just briefly acknowledged it and moved on.  I and many others have no interest in going over it again - the horse has been beaten to dust on this one.

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

@evetsyarsh @alan.fournier49 You're just upset because your heroes are being objectified and sold like livestock Believe it or not all men don't share your exhibitionistic fantasies. Your gladiators are owned by the leagues and media who treat them like the bi*ches they've become. No insecurities here. There's plenty of porn out there for you buddy This is sport, not a forced sex show. The action takes place on the playing surface not the locker room.     

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

@Shane Mac @alan.fournier49 If you can't see what's wrong with that article, then your beyond your rear end. How would you feel about men in your mothers, sisters, wives or girlfriend locker room hero?

Wombat
Wombat

@blynder @alan.fournier49 Most, if not all, team locker rooms now have dressing areas free of all media. The team can come out once showered and dressed. I just can't see giving up watching a sport for an issue like this... to each his own.

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

@Wombat @alan.fournier49 Sure I used to love running around naked A lot of women and men used to do it with me. I'm very liberal when it comes the human body.


                                                        BUT


It's called choice. Not all men enjoy it. And it shouldn't be a prerequisite too being a pro-athelete.You don't force anybody into situations of nudity for an audience. That is and should always remain illegal. Not women. Not men. Why is that so hard for some guys to accept. 

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @LenaBrun Actually - I think this issue will have more legs than some of the other off the field incidents in the NFL - since the NFL will start trotting out pink helmets, gloves, etc. in October which will bring this issue back to the forefront in the discussion about how serious the NFL truly is in taking a stand against domestic violence.

Wombat
Wombat

@usameos6 @Wombat @LenaBrun The NFL is long on platitudes and PR but short on understanding sometimes, (look how long it has taken to really get traction for the concussion thing). I may be wrong but I don't think it's the Ray Rice issue that will bring domestic violence into focus for them.

Knowitall
Knowitall

SlowHairyAndWeezus - or as the rest of us refer to, Mr Tedious - can you find another place to pursue your therapy?

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @usameos6 @LenaBrun I do agree with you there - especially since there's no pending litigation to force any changes in their behavior.  I'm just surprised at how poorly they've done at managing the messaging around this.

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @usameos6 @LenaBrun I almost wonder if it isn't the opposite and putting the old adage that 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' to the test.  Had they given him 6 games and then let it be reduced to 2 on appeal - that would likely have been enough to sweep it under the rug.  The way it's been handled has pretty much guaranteed that it is being talked about and discussed not only in the sports media world but in the larger media circles as well.

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