BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Philadelphia Eagles' training camp doesn't really begin until the caravan of Cadillac Escalades, Hummer H2s and Mercedes sedans start rolling into the Sayre Park dormitories at Lehigh University.
This year's parade unfolded Wednesday, when the veterans weaved their way through the mountain roads, pulled into the parking lot and unloaded high-definition TVs, state-of-the-art video game systems and hyperbaric chambers for their three-week stay.
"I saw (Eagles defensive ends) Trent Cole and Jason Babin carrying those things and I was messing with those guys," Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said with a laugh. "I don't even know what a hyperbaric chamber is or what it does. I'm going to stick with my air conditioning and my TV. I'm going into my ninth (NFL) season, so obviously I must be doing something right."
This year's stint at Lehigh promises to be considerably different than past seasons, however.
First of all, the schedule has changed for the first time since coach Andy Reid arrived in 1999. Starting on Friday, the Eagles will be reversing the practices, holding a brief walk-through in the morning, then staging their main workout in the afternoons at 2:45 p.m.
"I like it," Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said. "Getting that break in the morning before the tough afternoon is going to be a good thing."
Other, more subtle differences were apparent on Wednesday. Although veterans were not required to report until 7 p.m., virtually every player was in their suite by 3 p.m.
Last year, training camp got off to a rocky start. Some players reported immediately after the NFL lockout ended while newcomers such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young arrived a few days later and had to wait to be cleared before they could begin practicing.
"Having everybody here is a plus, just from a continuity and team camaraderie standpoint," Reid said Wednesday. "There are less distractions, so I think (having everybody at camp Wednesday) is an absolute plus."
One of last season's biggest distractions, Eagles wide receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson, emerged from a gray GMC Yukon at 2 p.m. and repeatedly flashed a smile filled with braces. Jackson staged a 12-day holdout last season in an unsuccessful effort to get a new contract.
His problems carried through the entire season. Jackson lost his focus and motivation. He was deactivated for a game for missing a team meeting and was benched for the second half of another after short-arming and dropping passes.
Upon signing a five-year, $51 million contract in March, he vowed to return to his Pro Bowl form this year.
"I wanted to get off to an early start and I'm ready to get out there on the field," Jackson said. "Last year was in the past. I'm ready to move forward. I'm ready to help this team get better and put us in a position to success.
"I'm very excited. This year is going to be a big year for us."
Quarterback Michael Vick evidently shares Jackson's confidence. Just before arriving at training camp with the rookies and other quarterbacks on Monday, he told Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia that the Eagles have the potential to be a "dynasty," even though their last NFL championship was in 1960.
This was also about the time Young uttered his infamous "Dream Team" quote at Lehigh. The Eagles didn't come close to living up to that label, struggling to a 4-8 start en route to an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs.
"In Michael's defense, he said we 'could be' a dynasty and that goes for every team," Jenkins said. "Every team is going to camp believing they have enough ability and talent to win and there's nothing wrong with that. Confidence needs to be there.
"I think we definitely have the ability to be a good team if we take care of business. It's going to be up to us."
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