Chip Kelly’s first training camp hits full stride today, which is exciting, but it started Monday for rookies and selected veterans like center Jason Kelce, new tight end James Casey, and the quarterbacks.
If you want a sense of whether veterans are buying in to Kelly’s system, Kelce and Casey showed up early, which is allowed under league rules only because they missed part of mini-camp due to injuries. In fact, Casey showed up three weeks early to work out by himself; versatility isn’t the only reason Kelly snapped him up on the first day of free agency. Even free agent defensive back Cary Williams, ridiculed for skipping optional OTAs to “buy sconces” for his new home, showed up two days early.
Check out Tuesday’s training camp schedule (via Jimmy Kempski): 12:15 to 1 pm is reserved for a “High Performance Mindset Meeting.” What the hell does that mean? You’ve heard that Kelly emphasizes conditioning, but other than running a lot of plays quickly in practice, no one explains what that means. This meeting did.
For Kelly, conditioning is mental as much as physical. Winning the Day begins in practice, with the mentality that every minute of practice is just as important as a game, and every game is the Super Bowl. By the transitive property, then, every minute of practice is also the Super Bowl, and you win by attacking it with that same intensity and focus.
The highlight of the meeting was a talk by an athlete that even NFL stars can be awed by: Coleman Ruiz.
You’ve never heard of him, because he’s a Navy Seal who led 85 combat missions over 12 years, and served as a Training Officer at the advanced Navy Seal training center. Members of the Special Forces train and condition as if their lives depend on it, because it literally does.
Casey told Sheil Kapadia, “They’re life and death with what they’re doing. And we’re just out here playing a game. So when he talks to us about what his mindset is and how he trains, it really resonates with us.” Casey clearly understands Kelly’s philosophy. “You don’t just go out there on game day and perform, doing (something) you’ve never done before. You don’t go out there and perform better than you ever did in practice.” That’s why you focus on winning your practice days because that’s how you win on Sunday.
Kelly has always been interested in the military and goes out of his way to honor servicemen and women with special events and appearances. But now it’s clear that his interest goes beyond gratitude for a dangerous job.
Kelly hired Shaun Huls as the NFL’s first “sports science coordinator” in February. Huls’ title got a lot of attention at the time, but not his background. An article at Peter King’s new MMQB.com website fills us in.
Huls cut his teeth in college working with the dominant Nebraska football program in the mid-1990s, along with fellow student James Harris, an Eagles assistant now, who was Chip Kelly’s chief of staff at Oregon. After a stint as strength and conditioning coach at Hampton College, Huls worked for five years as a civilian strength coach with the Navy Seals, focused on reducing non-combat injuries.
The Eagles under Kelly have invested over a million dollars in high-tech equipment and monitors to track motion, weight-lifting, cardio and nervous system response. Much of that gear is aimed at maximizing the impact of training while minimizing practice injuries and speeding recovery times.
Skeptics may wonder how much this will win football games, but if the Navy Seals think it helps them stay alive through peak performance and fewer injuries while people are trying to kill them, I’d say it’s worth a shot.
How serious is Kelly about conditioning?
Two of the rookies, running back Matthew Tucker and eccentric, but talented, Australian punter Brad Wing, flunked the Eagles’ conditioning test, a series of sprints. They were not allowed to join the other players for camp. They’ll get a second chance when the veterans are tested, but I wouldn’t bet a dime that either makes the team, especially Tucker.
His test was simply to complete 20 60-yard dashes in less than 9 seconds each — not exactly Olympic time — with breaks in between, and he couldn’t do it. He’s a running back! That’s not going to fly in a Chip Kelly program.
With returning tackle Jason Peters, though, Kelly was less strict; the Eagles will not fine him for his arrest for speeding and fleeing arrest. The charge was later plea bargained down to a charge of driving with “improper equipment”, a modified muffler, probably something fancier than glass packs I’d wager.
Many writers think Jason Peters was the best offensive linemen in the NFL in 2011, before he ripped up his Achilles tendon. My only problem with him racing cars is the fear that he’ll re-injure it jamming down on the gas pedal.
For his offensive line coach, Kelly hired Jeff Stoutland away from Alabama, and he looks like a great choice. Check out this interview from May for a sense of the Stout One’s personality.
It turns out that Stoutland has been showing his linemen video of Jason Peters, along with Bengals Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz, as a guide for years. “I’ve been studying his film since he entered the league with the Buffalo Bills in his rookie year,” Stoutland said.
So when the Eagles hired him, Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo couldn’t resist teasing Stoutland. “What are you going to do, show Jason Peters the Jason Peters film?”
Quote of the Day: “I love EDM, electronic music. I have a playlist calling bumping bass and slamming synths. It goes hard and it gets me fired up.” — smiley rookie QB Matt Barkley
Mark Saltveit’s book “The Tao of Chip Kelly” has been one of Amazon’s best-selling football books since its release last month. You can find it at the Ducks Store in Eugene, the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, various stores around Philadelphia, and online at http://www.chipkelly.tv/
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