PHILADELPHIA - Eagles long-snapper Jon Dorenbos couldn't resist.
After spending a few minutes warming up with place-kicker Alex Henery and punters Donnie Jones and Brad Wing before the team began its open workout at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday, Dorenbos' gaze drifted over to the sideline, where 250 members of the United States Armed Forces stood as part of Military Day.
Dorenbos wandered toward them and began throwing passes. He soon had soldiers running patterns on the field. Finally, one guy hauled in a 20-yarder, sprinted into the end zone and broke into a quick version of the "Funky Chicken" while the other military personnel cheered.
"They do so much for our country that it's the least I could do for them," Dorenbos said. "It's life-and-death situations for them a lot of the time, so anything I can do to repay them for protecting us, I'll do.
"They really seemed to enjoy themselves out there. I know I would be in awe if I was visiting them on an aircraft carrier or something, so I can imagine they felt the same way about being on the field with us."
Members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy watched the players and coaches go through some drills from the sideline and then joined them for the playing of the national anthem before heading into the stands for the rest of practice.
Afterward, they headed to the West Gate section of the stadium, where players such as defensive end Vinny Curry, rookie defensive tackle Bennie Logan and guard Evan Mathis signed autographs.
"I was one of the people who caught a pass from Jon, and that was awesome," said Curt Smith, a native of Berwick, Pa., who serves as a seaman on the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mako stationed in Cape May. "I was hoping to meet (Eagles running back) LeSean McCoy because I sort've played against him in high school, but I didn't get the chance.
"I played for Berwick High School when he was at Bishop McDevitt (in Harrisburg, Pa.). We played them in the regular season and the playoffs, but LeSean had a broken leg and didn't play. They still beat us, though. His backup ran for over 200 yards against us."
The playful tone of practice will change today, when the Eagles get their first look at another team.
New England coach Bill Belichick is bringing quarterbacks Tom Brady and Tim Tebow and the rest of the Patriots to the NovaCare Complex for a series of practices in preparation for Friday's preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field. The teams will practice together today, Wednesday and Thursday.
The workouts will mark the first time the Eagles have practiced with another team in training camp since 1998, when they held a scrimmage and two workouts with the Buffalo Bills at Lehigh University. Four years earlier, they spent a couple of days practicing at the New York Jets' training camp in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island.
"I've known coach (Belichick) for a while and I have a lot of respect for him," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "It's a great situation for both teams. He's (practiced) in the past with Tampa Bay and with the Saints, so he's got some familiarity with it. When I talked to him at the (predraft) combine a little bit about it, I thought it was a good idea.
"We're not playing them in the regular season. Not only are they not in our division, they're not in our conference, so the only opportunity we would have to see them would be the last game of the year (in the Super Bowl)."
The workouts will give the Eagles an opportunity to test their new offense and defense against another team. Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis both have introduced new systems.
On offense, quarterbacks Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley will continue their fight to see who will be the starter when the Eagles open the season at Washington on Sept. 9. The first depth chart lists both Vick and Foles as the starters.
But they will work behind a makeshift offensive line today. Left tackle Jason Peters did not practice Monday because of a strained hamstring and likely won't be on the field today. Center Jason Kelce is listed as day to day with a sprained ankle suffered Monday.
"First and foremost, (the Patriots) are a well-coached, very talented team," Eagles guard Evan Mathis said. "I've never practiced against another team, so I'm looking forward to it."
Defensively, Davis plans to install a 3-4 base defense but has yet to determine if his personnel fits that scheme.
For instance, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt are playing outside linebacker instead of defensive end, their previous position.
"I can see myself improving every day, and that's exciting to me," Cole said. "I'm looking forward to the next couple of days. We get to compete against another team and we get to test our skill level. This will give us a chance to see what we've gained so far."
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