As far back as the mid-1980s, the Eagles held joint practices with other NFL teams. There were long gaps without them — Andy Reid did not like the idea and his teams never had them — but in recent years under Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson and Nick Sirianni they’ve become a staple of Eagles training camp.
Sirianni likes joint practices so much this is the second year the Eagles are holding two separate sets of practices with another team. Last year, the Eagles worked against the Patriots at the NovaCare Complex and the Jets in North Jersey.
This year, they begin sessions with the Browns on Thursday in Berea, Ohio, before traveling to Miami to work against the Dolphins.
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Joint practices are always high-intensity and engaging as teams finally get to practice against players from other teams.
We searched back through Eagles history for some of the more memorable joint practice moments over these last 40 years.
Reggie White shows up [Oakland University, Rochester, Mich., 1985]
The Eagles were in the middle of joint practices with the Lions when Eagles writers covering the team noticed a large, hulking figure on the opposite sideline. “That’s Reggie White!” somebody noted. White, at the time playing for the Memphis Showboats, was with his agent, Patrick Forte, who lived in nearby Flint (and would later become an Eagles executive and the object of a lawsuit filed by White). The Eagles had selected White in the 1984 supplemental draft, a move that seemed odd at the time because White was under contract with the Showboats through 1987. But the USFL was struggling, White wanted to play in the NFL, and showing up at Eagles practice was the first hint that the future Hall of Famer was interested in becoming an Eagle. The Showboats soon granted White permission to negotiate with the Eagles, and three weeks later the Eagles signed White.
Eagles-Lions riot [Oakland University, Rochester, Mich., 1986]
By 1986, Marion Campbell was gone, and Buddy Ryan inherited Year 2 of the agreement with the Lions. It did not go well. Ryan lashed out at the facilities the Eagles were forced to use (“Next time, we’ll bring our own soap and towels”), blasted Lions coach Darryl Rodgers for the way his team practiced (“They ruined our tempo. They laid down. Wallowed”), laughed as fight after fight broke out between the two teams and turned the hotel lobby into a makeshift trainer’s room (“If they don’t like it, maybe the hotel will kick us out.”). The Eagles still haven’t been invited back.
Flippy the Cellphone [Lehigh University, 1998]
In the summer of 1998, the Bills came down to Lehigh for a couple days of joint practices with the Eagles. During a joint press conference sponsored by a cell phone company called Metrophone, head coaches Wade Phillips and Ray Rhodes stood uncomfortably as this giant cell phone mascot – Flippy the Cellphone — stood between them, dancing and carrying on. Wade and Ray just wanted to coach football, but Flippy kept doing its shtick, creating a more and more awkward scene. Finally, a representative from Metrophone gave Phillips a bag of Philadelphia-centric gifts to welcome him to Lehigh. As Wade sifted through the sad little bag of useless junk, RayBob leaned over, peeked into the bag and announced, “You got everything but a damn cellphone.”
Tom Brady vs. Curtis Marsh [NovaCare Complex, 2013]
Talk about mismatches. During Eagles-Patriots joint practices in 2013, the greatest quarterback in NFL history decided he was going to go after Eagles cornerback Curtis Marsh, who had been a 3rd-round pick in 2011 but by 2013 was fighting for a roster spot. Over and over in team drills, Brady threw to whoever Marsh was guarding. Deep ball to Kenbrell Thompkins. Dart to Zach Sudfeld. And strike after strike to Danny Amendola, a one-time Eagles practice squad player. At one point, Brady connected on 22 consecutive passes, and although not every one was against Marsh, most were. He was surgical and he didn’t let up. It was impossible not to feel bad for Marsh as the GOAT picked on him snap after snap after snap. Marsh was out of the league by the end of the year. Brady? Whatever happened to that guy.
Cary Williams-Aaron Dobson fight [NovaCare Complex, 2013]
One of the byproducts of Brady’s ridiculous performance against the Eagles was that those practices became very heated. Cary Williams did not like the way the Eagles responded to Brady’s precision and the Patriots’ success, and on the final day he got chippier and chippier as practice wore on. You could tell he just wanted to fight anybody in a Patriots uniform, and Aaron Dobson obliged. Williams and Dobson brawled at midfield after one particularly physical rep, and it got pretty ugly. Both were kicked out of practice by Bill Belichick and Chip Kelly. “I was taught to be aggressive at all times,” Williams said later. “They came in here talking, telling jokes, laughing, and dirty plays were going on. There’s a reason I did what I did. ... We have to get back to the old days when Brian Dawkins was here, strike fear in opposing teams.” He wasn’t wrong.
Murderleg [Foxboro, Mass., 2014]
The Eagles signed ballyhooed kicker Carey Spear as an undrafted rookie in the summer of 2014 to compete with Alex Henery, and Spear came with quite a reputation after a great career at Vanderbilt. Only problem was that he couldn’t kick. I mean, he was just terrible. On one unforgettable afternoon during joint practices with the Patriots, Spear lined up to attempt a series of field goals into these ultra-narrow goal-posts that the Patriots had on hand. The way the practice fields are set up outside Gillette Stadium, there are fans all over this hill behind the end zone. And when Murderleg started kicking, it was like a scene out of a horror movie. Fans were running for their lives because nobody had any idea where these kicks were going. When the drill was over, Murderleg hadn’t made one kick. He was released 11 days later.
Steve Smith [NovaCare Complex, 2015]
When a future Hall of Famer gets into a fight at joint practices, it’s newsworthy. But for Steve Smith, it wasn’t a topic he wanted to talk about. After 13 years, seven 1,000-yard seasons and five Pro Bowls with the Panthers, Smith finished his career with the Ravens, and Eagles-Ravens joint practices brought him to the NovaCare Complex in August of 2015. One day Smith got into a scuffle with an Eagles receiver, and at his media availability Smith was asked several times in several different ways about the fight. He repeatedly said he didn’t want to talk about it, growing increasingly antagonistic as the questions kept coming. After several minutes of this, the topic finally changed, to Smith’s relief. But then a late-arriving sports writer unaware of the previous conversation hit Smith with yet another question about the fight. Just when the media thought Smith was going to blow his top, he laughed and shook his head and repeated that he didn’t want to talk about it.