PHILADELPHIA -- There is one small problem with Doug Pederson's attempt to recreate Andy Reid’s 1999 launch of his tenure as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
It isn’t 1999.
In the years since Reid took over as head coach of the Eagles, the NFL has tightened the rules governing training camp and regular-season practices. Coaches simply can’t practice as often or be as physically demanding as they used to be.
While Pederson intends to follow the rules, he also made it clear that he plans to adhere as closely as possible to Reid’s training methods.
“Why do I believe in hitting?” Pederson said last month. “It's a physical game. It's football. It's tackle football. I think the only way you can properly fit offensively and defensively, you have to put the pads on and you have to hit.”
In 1999, Reid opened his first training camp with a grueling stretch of two-a-day practices in full pads. That approach, which became known as “three days of hell,” lasted for a few years. In ’99, nine players missed practice time because of dehydration in the first week.
After Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer collapsed and died during a training camp practice in 2001, the league began to develop guidelines for teams to follow.
There are limits on the number of times teams can wear full pads, how often they can hit and how many days they can work without a day off.
Under Chip Kelly, the focus was on tempo rather than contact. Kelly wanted his team to practice fast. Hitting was not the priority.
Under Pederson, it will be. Rookies report on Monday. They will spend three days together before the veterans report. On Thursday, with the full team on the field, Pederson plans to implement his own modified version of Reid’s “three days of hell.”
“We'll probably go three days in pads, take them off, and then go another three days and take them off,” Pederson said. “So it's kind of a broken-up schedule. It's not every day, but it's at least three consecutive before we take them off and have a lighter day, where they can recover for a day."
Reid believed that hitting was part of the process of building a team from the group of 90 men allowed on the roster. Pederson also thinks it is important to evaluate football players by actually watching them play football.
“For instance,” Pederson said, “if you're looking for a fullback, are you going to go out here in shells and tell me you're going to find a fullback? I want to see him run downhill and hit a Mike linebacker. I want to see him strike a defensive end. I want to see if he can hold up. Do his legs collapse? Does he stay up? Can he power through the block?
“I want to see if guards can pull. I want to see if linebackers can tackle. I want to see receivers and DBs test each other, and the only way you can do that is in pads. We can put the shells on all day, and you still have to learn how to practice out of pads and protect each other that way. But the best evaluator in this game, I feel, is in pads."