The Irony in Eagles' Intense Practices

Updated: 7:09 p.m.

For a couple hours, it was August again. It was training camp again. And the Eagles were getting back to basics.

The pads went on, the starters faced the starters, there was plenty of trash talking, and the Eagles on Wednesday began the process of trying to rediscover some lost magic with what the players said was a very physical, intense practice.

Rare or even unprecedented for this time of year.

"That was a very intense practice," Jason Kelce said. "We haven't had one like that since training camp. On the verge of too intense.

"No fights, but whenever you go really, really hard, guys fall down, and you never want guys on the ground because you can get guys hurt, but I think we got a lot of really, really good work in."

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The Eagles go into the playoffs having not played a complete game on both sides of the football in a month.

Since their nine-game winning streak, they lost by 14 to the Seahawks, won three games despite a bad day by either the offense or defense in all three, then lost, 6-0, to the Cowboys Sunday, when many of the starters either didn't play or were limited.

They still finished with 13 wins, the best record in football. But in an effort to get their mojo back, the Eagles got back to basics Wednesday and the players said they expect to again Thursday before taking three days off.

"It was intense, for sure," Zach Ertz said. "Most intense practice we've had probably in a long time. Full pads, 1's against the 1's. Since the season started, we'd only have a couple plays here and there during Wednesday and Thursday practices, 1's against the 1's whereas today the whole practice was.

"We did a lot of situation work, trying to get those situations with Nick (Foles), give him the opportunity to go through them with us. I thought it was a great practice. It was really intense. A lot of trash talking, as you would expect when the guys are heated like that."

Doug Pederson said Tuesday his so-called player's council - a group of veterans he meets with regularly - requested tougher practices this week.

There's an irony the Eagles worked all year to earn a bye week, and they're using it for some of their toughest practices of the year.

But they all believe this is what they need.

"We've had a little bit of time to rest," Lane Johnson said. "Even last week, we had a few walkthroughs compared to what we normally do in a regular week, and I think it was time to get a good practice in the bank, and that's what we need, man.

"Get the physicality back so when the game comes, it's not foreign to us.

"This is the second wave. This is what the whole season boils down to, so we want to be ready. We weren't happy with our performances and, believe you me, we're working hard to fix it. Just try to simulate a game and make it as hard as we can on ourselves."

It says a lot about this team that they preferred to work during the bye rather than go through a couple light workouts or even have days off.

But this is a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2013 and hasn't won a playoff game since 2008.

It embraces the work.

"We're eager," Ertz said. "We haven't tasted postseason success yet, and we're just eager for that first postseason win since I've been here. We haven't had postseason success really since Brent (Celek) started playing.

"The guys are hungry."

The Eagles open postseason play at the Linc at 4:30 p.m. a week from Saturday against either the Panthers, Falcons or Saints. If they win, they'll host the NFC Championship game Jan. 21.

And if they're still playing, they'll likely look back to this week as a turning point.

"I think it'll help all of us," Johnson said. "It felt like training camp out there. It was good. That's what we need. Not getting the performances that we wanted, so that's what we needed to do."

The Eagles on Wednesday evening signed four players to reserve/futures contracts: P Cameron Johnston, TE Adam Zaruba, CB Elie Bouka and WR Marquess Wilson. These players don't count against the 53-man roster and aren't eligible to play in the playoffs, but they can be with the team in OTAs and next training camp. They will count against the next 90-man roster. 

Zaruba and Johnston were with the team last offseason. Zaruba is the former Canadian rugby star, who tried to make the Eagles as a tight end. At 6-5, 260, he's a pretty good athlete, but is still learning the game. He's a name to watch.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro contributed to this story.

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