Carson Wentz stands with the rest of the offense, hands on his hips as he watches first-team install. Under center is Super Bowl champion and MVP quarterback Nick Foles, who will be backing him up for the 2018 NFL season.
It’s a bit of an odd dynamic for the Eagles’ quarterback room in training camp.
Typically, odd dynamics spell zipped lips during pressers. Ask Carson or head coach Doug Pederson how the first-team reps will be divided up, and you’ll get a brief, canned response: they’ll evaluate that day-by-day as they move forward. How has the team dynamic shifted now that they’re returning as champions? It hasn’t really. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Nick Foles? He’s not really giving different answers, when you parse the words down: things aren’t going to change, things will be later evaluated, et cetera. But a career full of uncertainty, constant questioning, and grueling self-realization has bred in Nick something rarely found in marquee NFL personalities: bare, innocent honesty.
So those first team snaps he’s got; the opportunity to run with the ones, develop rapport with the players with whom he’ll potentially suit up in Week 1? Nick...doesn’t really care.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s first, second, third, fourth, fifth string snaps.” Foles tosses his hands up, shrugs. “Any time you get a snap and get to go out there and practice, you build a database of information—good, bad, whatever it may be. Just the ability to be out there, feeling great, healthy...it’s a wonderful thing.”
I mean sure, that’s all well and good—practice is practice, I get it. But this situation is really unprecedented: Super Bowl MVP taking first-team snaps as potential regular season MVP rehabs from injury? That’s wild. How does Nick view his role this year, as things currently stand?
“Last year, going into camp, I wanted to impact the locker room where I was, whatever you want to label me.” He breaks a smile with this shrug. “It doesn’t change this year. No one knows my label—it’s kinda been that way for a long time—and I’ve said it before: I don’t really care. I know that I love my teammates, I love this city, I love playing for these coaches ... [You] don’t need to come out and say ‘you’re the starter, you’re the backup.’ You’re gonna get me. That’s it.”
When players are pressed for quotes, they’re pressed under the presumption that they want to play; they want to win; they want to win championships. Foles has been there and done that—we all saw it happen—but he doesn’t talk about playing, winning, or championships. He talks about relationships, which he claims “make a team great.” He talks about experiencing the present moment, which he says “alleviates everything around me.” He talks about keeping a positive mentality, which he notes “helps me keep my sanity.”
Foles operates under a different code of conventions and values than most NFL players, and it’s that code that put a thoughtful, unfazed, and peaceful player up on the podium today. Like Foles says of himself, when discussing how his teammates treat him after his championship season: “They just know me as Nick.”
He stands as a man unburdened, though it’s tough to identify what exactly the burden was—Nick himself likely couldn’t quite put his thumb on the jumbles of training camp battles, relocations, and game day pressures. Success will do that to a man: lighten the load he carries, in sensation at least, if not in reality. But Foles’ success wasn’t winning a championship. It was finding good relationships; a job with support and faith around him; a stable future. And, to an Eagles organization in perilously uncharted waters, that’s how Nick impacts the locker room. Not as a first-team quarterback or Super Bowl MVP, but as a man on a steady path; directed by his goals and invigorated by the love he feels.
It’s hot outside; everyone’s sticky. 4th-team rookie offensive linemen are false-starting hither and thither. But you get the sense that there’s nowhere Nick Foles would rather be, in this very moment, than taking snaps in the 2018 training camp of the Philadelphia Eagles.