PHILADELPHIA -- Hours before the Philadelphia Eagles put pads on for the first time under new coach Chip Kelly, tailgating fans gathered in parking lots and waited for Lincoln Financial Field to open its gates.
More than 65,000 tickets were distributed for Sunday's practice. The estimated crowd of 30,000 was a club record for practice. As former NBA MVP and Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson famously once said: "Practice! Not a game! Practice!"
That's how excited they are about Kelly and their beloved Eagles.
"It's really nice to see the support, especially after what happened last year," tight end Brent Celek said. "But it's a new year and I'm glad to see everybody in Philadelphia is supporting us."
Kelly doesn't run a typical NFL practice. He has stations set up for the various positions and loud music blaring through the speakers. Practice is fast-paced and appears hectic to first-time observers.
The Eagles had 11 on 11 scrimmages without tackling, and fans got to see quarterbacks Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley compete for the starting job. After a bunch of running plays - Kelly certainly is no Andy Reid when it comes to pass-run ratio - Foles threw a deep pass to loud cheers. It fell incomplete.
The Eagles started the festivities by introducing several players on Alumni Day. Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald, Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook and Mike Quick were among the former Eagles in attendance.
McNabb, who will officially retire as an Eagle on Monday, drew the loudest cheers, slightly edging Dawkins. That was surprising considering Dawkins is one of the most popular athletes to ever play in Philadelphia and fans have always been divided in their feelings toward McNabb.
"The reception was great," McNabb said. "It was awesome. I enjoyed being back."
Kelly was lured away from Oregon after the Eagles fired Andy Reid following a 4-12 season. Kelly had tremendous success in college, leading the Ducks to a 46-7 record in four seasons and turning the program into a national powerhouse.
Now, he's bringing his high-octane, up-tempo offense and unique overall approach to the NFL. Everyone is eager to see his transition.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press