Since we last spoke you obviously signed G Jason Peters. What made you think Jason can play right guard and what level of patience will you exercise with T Andre Dillard at left tackle knowing that Jason is in the building? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: First of all, good morning guys and welcome to the 2020 training camp. We are excited to be back in the building and working with our rookie players starting today. Things are a little unusual. Obviously, the schedule is a little different. It’s unfortunate for most of you not being over here and doing this face-to-face, but we’re excited to get this thing going and look forward to working with our guys moving forward.
But to get back to your question, we had many conversations with Jason. We took a look at our roster obviously and felt that where Jason is and the type of player he is, obviously his leadership on the football team, that the transition would be relatively easy. I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy, but relatively easy, for him being a veteran guy moving into that guard spot and quite frankly, we love where Andre is at. He’s had a tremendous off-season.
The things he did for us last season, the couple games that he played and started for us, he did well and it’s just going to be a great opportunity for him moving forward. I’m looking forward to really getting these guys, those five guys, working up front with Stout [Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator Jeff Stoutland] to see where they can go this season.
Q. I’m sure you saw the outbreak the Miami Marlins are having in baseball playing in Philadelphia over the past few days. What kind of things is that making you think about as you undertake your own season? (Tim McManus)
COACH PEDERSON: Thanks for the question. I’ll say this: My hat goes off to the many, many people in the Philadelphia [Eagles] organization. I think about our stadium people. I think about the grounds people. I think about [President] Don Smolenski, everyone that had a hand in getting us where we are today and to come back safely into NovaCare. The protocols that the NFL has put in place, with the Players Association, the agreement there, with all of our doctors, it gives us hope. It gives us excitement moving forward.
We understand that the virus is real and we do everything we can in our powers to stay safe, protecting ourselves when we’re in the building, protecting our players, and it’s unfortunate what has happened.
But we do have a lengthy set of protocols that we have to abide by, and this is our new normal right now, working in these conditions as probably most of you working in your conditions, as well.
It’s something that we are going to embrace. We are going to make it a positive. It is what it is, and we’re going to embrace it and move forward.
Q. Based on how unusual this off-season has been, and now the unique challenges of what training camp will be, how difficult and how much will it change the way you build a roster this year and how you evaluate these players? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s a little different. Really training camp has been divided into three phases, much like the off-season program, so it’s phase one, phase two, phase three. We are in this phase one, strength, conditioning phase right now. And then we get into the acclimation phase. Then once we get into the training camp, the so-called training camp, or the padded portion of camp, I have to do what I feel is best for the football team from a standpoint of putting the guys in position to succeed on the field. Meaning, we have to have answers on a lot of our players, especially the young guys. We haven’t seen these rookies live and in person.
So it’s my job as the head coach to — from a scheduling standpoint as we go throughout this training camp, to put our guys in competitive situations to see what they can do and then do the best we can at the end of training camp to come up with the 53.
Q. Are you not relying heavily on your rookies early on right now, as far as the contributions they might be able to make? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH PEDERSON: No, I wouldn’t go that far because, as you know, every year, there’s going to be a rookie or two that really steps up and performs and catches our eye. It doesn’t matter if he’s a guy on offense or defense. He can be a starter on special teams. We can’t forget that.
So that’s what I’m most excited about. As coaches, we have to get our young players caught up extremely fast. I will tell you this: We had a really good off-season, as virtual as it was, with the meetings. We spent some time virtually with our rookies this past week and these guys are in a really good place mentally.
Now it’s about taking it to the grass, seeing what they know and then leaning on these guys as much as we can throughout training camp.
Q. How do you make up for the lack of preseason games, and how will you find ways to evaluate the back end of the roster guys and not only that, you have, I believe, about 72 percent of players returning snaps, guys who played last year returning. So, you also have to evaluate those guys, as well. How do you do that without preseason games? (Rob Maaddi)
COACH PEDERSON: Again, that’s something as I alluded to earlier just coming up with creative ways, whether I do more scrimmage situations. I do a couple live practices during camp, anyway, and I have to do maybe some more scrimmages and put our young players and put the guys we need answers on in those situations. I have to come up with ways of having game-like situations in practice because we are missing the preseason games.
So it can definitely be done. We’ll be creative about it as a staff, and we’ll eventually have the answers we need at the end of camp.
Q. Have you had anybody test positive thus far from the rookies and the people that have been in the building? (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: In relation to those questions and that question, obviously I can’t give out that information because of the [protocols established by the] NFL, the Players Association, and our medical team. So that information right now is not accessible to you guys.
Q. How safe do you feel? How safe as you embark on this process do you feel you are, your staff is and your players are? (Reuben Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: I feel extremely safe. Obviously coming into it, there might have been some skepticism about the testing and the screening that goes on but it’s very thorough. When you’re here, you get tested in the morning, you have a screening process that you have to go through to get into the building; wearing masks in the building, everywhere we go, I feel extremely safe.
This is our bubble right here at NovaCare. I can’t control everything. We can’t control everything. There probably are going to be some things that come up down the road, but right now, I feel extremely safe and this is a great environment for our players to succeed in.
I know you can’t tell us about players who have tested positive, if they have or not, but who are the players that came back early that were injured, and where do they stand in terms of their recoveries? What should we expect about guys like WR Alshon Jeffery, what’s the injury update? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: Talking about some of the injuries, obviously without getting in-depth, all the guys are doing extremely, extremely well. I’m looking forward to getting these guys back on the field at some point.
As you know, we don’t rush guys back and we let them heal — and what’s good about this process right now is the fact that we don’t have to ramp up. We’re not going into pads right away.
So there’s this acclimation phase that we can begin to really ramp our guys up into, and so our injured guys will be the ones that will be working in that phase, as well, and then hopefully be ready for the regular season. We’ll see how it goes throughout these first couple of phases.
Q. Can you tell us what players came back early that were injured? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, I could tell you. All the guys that were injured at the end of the season, there’s — you had, let’s see, we had [G] Brandon [Brooks], [S] Rodney McLeod — I don’t have the list in front of me right now. We had all the guys that were on injured reserve last year that had to — based on our protocol, they had to pass physicals and all that before they could be cleared and whatnot, and then we got those guys in here. I don’t have that list necessarily in front of me, so it’s hard to answer that question.
As we look around the league and how all sports teams are kind of acclimating in this time, we see MLS, we see the NBA in a bubble. We see Major League Baseball traveling and the NFL will travel as well. The Phillies/Yankees game got canceled. I am curious how much do you have to look ahead to what Major League Baseball is doing as they set a precedent for other leagues that will travel later this season? (Kristen Rodgers)
COACH PEDERSON: We will take a look. I know we’re looking at all the leagues obviously and what everybody is doing.
But you know what, quite honestly, I’m concerned right here with Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Eagles, our players and trying to get our team ready to go for the regular season. I know the guys that are higher up than me are watching that, our doctors and medical team at the NFL, they are watching all this stuff. They are in constant conversations and constant meetings and they will have a plan. They will be prepared.
It’s my job to get the team prepared, and then obviously their job to make sure that we’re all safe and doing the right thing.
Q. How difficult would this off-season have been if this was your first year as a head coach, thinking back to 2016, and how big of an advantage is it that you, your quarterback and your defensive coordinator are all heading into your fifth year together while the rest of the division all hired new staffs? (Jimmy Kempski)
COACH PEDERSON: I’ve thought about that with the new staffs just in our division here and in our conference. It has to be extremely tough not to be around [each other]. They spent a little bit of time, probably maybe a few weeks way back in February and March, maybe together, but it would be hard. And then not having your players in the off-season trying to teach a new offense, defense, special teams, I’m sure is probably difficult in its own right.
We’ve been blessed. I’ve been blessed going into my fifth year here in Philadelphia and maintaining the staff that I have and adding some great additions to the staff this year. And our players are excited because they are not having to learn a necessarily new offense or defense or special teams.
So I’m not necessarily thinking it’s going to be a leg up, but at the same time, it does give us confidence going into camp that we all are on the same page.
Q. I was wondering if you can give us an update on WR Alshon Jeffery’s status, and because of the pandemic, the fact that you didn’t have spring practices and everything, do you see him having a role this year? Do you think that’s been increased because of the situation? (Martin Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: Alshon was obviously one of the guys, too, that came back early to follow up on that question.
But he’s doing extremely well. Again, he’s in a really good spot. He’s going to continue to work and get himself ready. Obviously, I won’t — you know me, I don’t put timetables on players, but when he’s ready, he’s ready, and he’ll be back out there on the field with us.
So I’m excited with where he’s at. Even though, yeah, we missed the spring and had this pandemic, he was still working and rehabbing and doing everything that he could to get himself ready for the season.
Q. Just curious, obviously you’ve had a lot of injuries the past couple of seasons, a next-man-up mentality. Have you given a lot of thought that you need sort of back-ups for everybody now, even the coaching staff on a particular week? How much thought have you put into that? (John McMullen)
COACH PEDERSON: Great question, and I’ve thought about that quite a bit, the closer I got here to camp and being in the building. We have to have a plan for everything as you know.
One of the things that we’ve been faced with, and I think we’ve done a really good job here is we’ve overcome some of the injuries we’ve had the last couple of seasons. We’ve coached that next guy, or that next player has been able to go in and perform at a high level, but now I think that has to carry over to the coaching staff as you mentioned.
I think there has to be a plan in place for any coach or any staff member that may miss a couple days or a couple weeks because of the virus.
So those are all things that are running through my mind. Again, we are in a different environment and we all have to do our part to protect ourselves, protect our players and our families and hopefully we minimize any setbacks.