PHILADELPHIA - Eagles center Jason Kelce pulled into the parking lot of the NovaCare Complex on Monday in his truck and strolled empty-handed into the facility for his pre-training camp physical in preparation for today's first practice.
The scene was much different than the previous 17 training camps at Lehigh University, where a stream of Cadillac Escalade SUVs and Mercedes sedans would pull up to the dorms. Players would unload plasma TVs, video game systems and hyperbaric chambers for their three-week stay in Bethlehem, Pa.
This year, the Eagles are holding training camp in their backyard. Most practices will be held at the NovaCare Complex and five workouts are scheduled for Lincoln Financial Field. Players will stay at a nearby hotel, but veterans will be permitted to stay in their homes after about a week.
"I think they made the right decision to have it at the facility here," Kelce said. "From a technology standpoint, it really wasn't feasible for us to go to Lehigh again when everything we need is right here.
"There are some things I'm going to miss about going there, though. I won't miss driving on those mountain roads or walking all over the place, but I will miss the fans. It was pretty cool to see all those fans out there every day watching us practice. For them to take time out of their busy schedule to see us practice was special."
The Eagles used to average about 6,000 fans a day at Lehigh. Attendance doubled in 2004, when quarterback Donovan McNabb, new wide receiver Terrell Owens and new defensive end Jevon Kearse were preparing for a season that would end in an appearance in the Super Bowl.
The team can only accommodate 300-400 fans for practices at the NovaCare Complex, including about 50 season-ticket holders who will be chosen at random. But more than 200,000 already obtained free tickets for the five workouts that will be held at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday, Aug. 5, Aug. 11, Aug. 17 and Aug. 26.
"None of us have ever been through a training camp here before," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "Just by being here and being at the stadium, that's an exciting part of this and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out."
Kelce was among 30 players who were required to report to camp Monday. The entire team is scheduled to show up Thursday, with the first full-team practice of training camp under new coach Chip Kelly slated for Friday at 12:30 p.m.
Most of the attention Monday - as it will be for the duration of the preseason - was focused on the quarterbacks. Michael Vick, Nick Foles, rookie Matt Barkley, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne all showed up to begin the battle to see who will be the one taking snaps from Kelce when the Eagles begin the regular season at Washington on Sept. 9.
"This competition is an opportunity for all of us to get better," Foles said. "We are going to support each other and push each other every day and whoever wins this job will be a guy who plays well when he's out there and has the respect of everybody on this team.
I love Mike. I think he's one of the greatest athletes to ever play this game. And I have a ton of respect for him. But I also have confidence in my own abilities. At the end of the day, I'm not here to be the backup. None of us play this game to sit on the bench. I want to be the guy."
Kelly, who was not available for comment Monday, added to the intrigue by declining to name a starter for the start of training camp, but the assumption has always been that it's a two-man race between Foles and Vick. Foles and Vick split time with the first-team offense during the offseason mincamps and OTAs (organized team activities). Dixon also took a few snaps with the starters while Barkley and Kinne worked with the backups.
But Barkley doesn't view it that way. The fourth-round draft choice out of the University of Southern California said he firmly believes he has a shot to be the starter.
"I feel like I'm a part of this race," Barkley said. "(The coaches) are not specifically saying (the starting job) is yours for the taking, but this is supposed to be an open competition and that's how I'm approaching it."
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