When football players say they "go to war" together, they aren't comparing themselves to soldiers. They are using the sacrifice and strength of the US military as inspiration.
"We really appreciate what our military does," DeMeco Ryans said after practice. "They allow us to play this game and be free ... we are very thankful to them for their support."
And it turns out, the soldiers invited to watch the Eagles practice at Lincoln Financial Field from the sideline Sunday were inspired just as much by their favorite players as the players are by service members.
"It's the best day of my life," Tech Sgt. Kristin Bailey said with a smile as the Eagles began practicing kick returns. "I have been a fan for years and this is amazing."
Bailey and a bevy of other service members were greeted on the field by Chip Kelly and several players prior to the second and final Eagles open practice, and they had the look of any other Eagles fan — that "I'm never washing this hand again" look.
"We talk about it all the time while we are working," Senior Master Sgt. Charles Reed said, emphasizing that football is king anywhere Americans gather. "Somebody in our section is a Cowboys fan. He was actually from Texas and we go back and forth all the time."
Senior Airman William J. Paskey III, who serves in the 166th Airlift Wing in New Castle, Delaware, said he and his fellow military personnel follow the Birds online. And just like diehard fans in the Delaware Valley, Paskey is optimistic about the new-look Eagles.
"I think they're going to be pretty productive and successful from what I've been told and I have seen," Paskey said, noting that Kelly's aggressive approach to rebuilding the Eagles roster did not have him worried.
Bailey agreed, but made sure to be cautious when voicing her Eagles optimism.
"I am anxious," she said, "I have been hearing good things but I am ready to see them put it to work."
After their work Sunday, 26 periods of fast-paced Chip Kelly practice, all 90 Eagles players lined up to present military members with their practice-worn jerseys and sign autographs.
"To come out and experience that, a lot of guys haven't experienced our fans," Ryans said.