Thousands come out to see favorite Eagles, old and new - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Sports

Thousands come out to see favorite Eagles, old and new - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Sports

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Thousands come out to see favorite Eagles, old and new

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Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013 10:15 pm

PHILADELPHIA - Jordan McCoy usually sleeps late on Sundays.

Curiosity about his favorite football team prompted him to get up early and make the trek from Horsham, Pa., to Lincoln Financial Field yesterday, though. The 31-year-old was among an announced crowd of 30,000 to watch the Eagles' first public practice of training camp.

Although attendance fell short of the 65,000 that was expected, team president Don Smolenski said Sunday's crowd was the largest to ever watch an Eagles practice.

"It's really exciting," McCoy said while watching new coach Chip Kelly put the team through a high-energy, two-hour workout. "It felt like I was at a game, but without the pressure (of hoping for an Eagles victory)."

The players also enjoyed it.

Some said the atmosphere energized them. Even the most mundane drills were conducted with a little more intensity and speed in hopes of drawing cheers from the fans.

"It's always good to see all the fans watching you," outside linebacker Brandon Graham said. "The atmosphere was great. It reminded me of a spring game (at the University of Michigan)."

The practice was the first of five scheduled to be held at the Linc this summer. Training camp workouts also will be held here on Aug. 5, Aug. 12, Aug. 17 and Aug. 26 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets and parking are free. The concession stands are open but do not serve alcohol.

They are the only opportunities for fans to see the team practice en masse. All other workouts are being held at the NovaCare Complex in front of 300-400 invited guests.

In previous years, fans had no problem watching training camp other than having to drive to Bethlehem, Pa. The Eagles are in Philadelphia after spending the previous 17 camps at Lehigh University, where they drew about 6,000 fans per day.

"I used to like going to Lehigh," McCoy, the fan from Horsham, Pa., said. "You could get real close to the players and a lot of them would come over to talk and give autographs. But I think this will work out well."

Practice was only a part of Sunday's experience.

Before the workouts, fans were treated to face-painting artists and appearances by the team's cheerleaders at the Headhouse Plaza section of the stadium.

Just before practice started, approximately 30 former players were introduced. The group included Ocean City resident Riley Gunnels, who was a member of the Eagles' 1960 NFL Championship team. Everyone received applause, but Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook generated loud standing ovations.

The team announced that McNabb, 36, will officially retire as an Eagle today during a news conference at the NovaCare Complex. He also will be honored during the regular-season game against former coach Andy Reid and Kansas City on Sept. 19 at the Linc. McNabb, who played for the Eagles from 1999-2009, last played in the NFL in 2011 for the Minnesota Vikings.

After the practice, about a dozen current players headed out to sign autographs. Young fans were supposed to be able to go onto the field to catch a pass, but a severe thunderstorm forced officials to cancel that event.

Spectators seemed to enjoy the pace and energy of the practice. In the process, Kelly won over at least one skeptical fan.

"At first, I wanted anybody but Chip Kelly," Matt Liberman, of Holland, Pa., said. "And I mean anybody. But the more I thought about it and read about the stuff he's doing with the (protein) shakes and music (blaring throughout practices), I realized the Eagles may have made the right decision."

Contact David Weinberg:

609-272-7186

DWeinberg@pressofac.com

© 2014 pressofAtlanticCity.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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