Who doesn't love some kicker talk in June?
In truth, these OTAs do mean something for the Eagles' kickers, Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis, both of whom will take part in one of the team's more under-the-radar battles at training camp this summer. Few will remember these June practices a few months from now, but they're especially important for a player like Parkey, who's coming off an injury and hoping to reclaim his spot.
"At the end of the day it was my job and (my mindset is) it's still gonna be my job," Parkey said Thursday.
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Parkey was so good as a rookie, making 32 of 36 field goals, including all four from 50-plus yards, in 2014. It was the best and most stable season an Eagles kicker has had since David Akers' final year here in 2010.
But Parkey suffered a painful groin injury early last season, which contributed to his 44-yard miss with four minutes to go in the Eagles' season-opening two-point loss in Atlanta. Parkey attempted just four field goals in 2015 before being placed on injured reserve.
The Eagles brought in Sturgis and he struggled at first, missing a 33-yarder on his first attempt. But he rebounded to finish 18 for 22, which is the main reason this battle is taking place.
It's a good thing for the Eagles, having two capable kickers who can push each other. It's an often overlooked position that carries so much weight — the Eagles had six games last season decided by less than a touchdown.
"That's a great battle going on right there," head coach Doug Pederson said. "We know Cody is coming off the injury from last year and he's still working himself back into shape. But it's going to be a great competition going into camp. Not making any decisions today on that spot, but I like what I've seen out of both of them."
Preseason will dictate who makes the team and who ends up on the waiver wire in hopes of finding another job. But Parkey in particular needs these practices to get the reps required to find a rhythm after spending so much of last season on the sidelines.
"Definitely (important) for me just because I really want to get the reps in," Parkey said. "I was feeling really good these last few weeks. I was really happy just to get out there and get the timing down with (holder) Donnie Jones and (long snapper) Jon Dorenbos. It was really important for me.
"One day Caleb might make one more kick than me, the next day I could make one more kick than him. It's kind of hard to keep track of stuff like that. I think it comes down to preseason, but even in preseason you could get every other kick and you could only kick once, so you never know. They just go with whoever they think did the better job and hopefully that'll be me."
If it does end up being Parkey, Sturgis will play the kicker shuffle again. Year after year, displaced kickers find jobs in other cities. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail. It's a tough life, being judged by split-second events that can be affected by so many other factors. That's why Sturgis was so grateful that the Eagles stuck with him last season after his slow start.
"It was huge for me, my career and everything," Sturgis said. "I missed some kicks I shouldn't have missed early and that was tough, but I bounced back from it and made a good amount. I have so much respect and am very thankful for (special teams coordinator) Dave Fipp and his staff to have faith in me. My goal this offseason was to work really hard to reward them."
The specialists — Parkey, Sturgis, Jones and Dorenbos — spend most, if not all of practice on a side field doing their own thing. They're secluded and end up spending a bulk of their time together. So as common as kicker battles are in the NFL, it does create this weird dynamic where two guys spend hours talking and joking with one another, knowing full well that only one of them is making the team. You end up becoming friends with the guy you hope to gain an advantage on every chance you get.
"We just never talk about it," Parkey said. "Obviously, if I make the team I hope he's the first one on the waiver wire getting picked up and I'm sure he thinks the same thing about me. Caleb's a class-act guy. He came in here and did a good job taking over for me last year. But at the end of the day it was my job. ... If that's the case and I do win the job, I hope he's the first one getting picked up by another team."