Tuesday marked the first day of the Eagles' mandatory minicamp practices, but much of the day's conversation centered around a player no longer on the team. On Tuesday Chip Kelly met the media for the first time since releasing All-Pro guard Evan Mathis late last week, and several players also fielded questions about the veteran lineman's release.
By and large, players' comments struck a similar chord: Kelly has no room on his team for players who don't want to be here, and the Eagles will press on without Mathis. Speaking to reporters after practice Tuesday, center Jason Kelce said that there were hints of discord last season that may have carried over into last week's decision. From Tim McManus of Birds 24/7:
"The most important thing that we're trying to establish here -- that I think is established -- is a culture," added Kelce. "It's a workplace where everybody is in this together, everybody is in this with one another. People look at this like it's voluntary and that's fine, but the fact of the matter is that he was one out of 90 guys that wasn't here so that's clearly not a part of the team. Nobody has anything personal against Evan -- I still consider him one of my best friends I've ever had throughout my life, actually -- but this is just the nature of the business, the nature of what we're trying to build here."
Kelce also added: "This is the Philadelphia Eagles, it isn't any one person."
Tight end Zach Ertz, who shared his comments about Mathis' absence during OTAs, had this to say, per McManus:
"It's not mandatory to be here but I think guys view it as being mandatory because we want to be here," said Zach Ertz. "It's not that Chip [Kelly] is forcing us or anybody else is forcing us. Everybody here wants to be here, and I think that's the precedent we set."
Meanwhile on the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm Jenkins offered some perspective based on his time in New Orleans, when Saints quarterback Drew Brees was going through contract issues of his own. From Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media:
When Drew Brees was sitting out [In New Orleans], we were preparing as if he wasn't coming back. You better believe we were preparing and making moves for a worst case scenario. Obviously, we're glad that worked out.
"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. As a team, one person can't stop what you're doing. For one person you can't give up your hopes and dreams for all that stuff. You've gotta move on. It's unfortunate, but I think that's what the team is doing."
Shortly after Kelly's press conference Tuesday, Mathis talked with a few reporters, saying that he wanted to stay in Philadelphia. While it remains to be seen what effect Mathis' release will have on the football field, it certainly has everyone talking off the field. Since Mathis' release, the Eagles signed free agent interior lineman Jared Wheeler.