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Eagles feeling stronger than ever due to focus on fitness

Chip Kelly has changed the Eagles' culture, not with his play-calling but with his focus on health, like achieving optimal heart rate and getting rest.

Chip Kelly Chip Kelly is winning games this season with a focus on players' overall health.
Credit: Getty Images

This issue of sports science just won’t go away.

It’s here to stay, as a talking point, from now until head coach Chip Kelly’s team runs out of gas. The latter doesn’t seem likely— not after the Eagles reeled off five straight wins, not after nonchalantly throwing up 34 second-half points in a blizzard and not after turning a bashful Nick Foles into a household name.

“I have a lot of flaws in my game that I understand,” said Foles, who graces the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated magazine. “I’ve got to make those better every day. If I can get one-hundredth of a percent better each day, that’ll eventually add up.”


Foles is a humble kid from Texas who has bought into Kelly’s system— and what a system. The former Oregon coach took over a mess of a team coming off a 4-12 nightmare. One of the first changes Kelly made was adding an extra day of practice.

The coach informed his players they must come in on Tuesdays, a day traditionally reserved as a day of rest across the NFL. At first, the move was met with moaning and groaning in the Eagles locker room.

“I never really liked it, but you gotta buy in,” said receiver DeSean Jackson. “That’s one of the things you gotta do. … Professional athlete, you gotta adjust on the run. Here we are in December and I think it’s definitely helping us out. I don’t know, man, we’re just fresh.”

Kelly has seemingly changed the entire culture, not with his play-calling— although that has been crucial in the turnaround as well— but with his focus on health, things like achieving optimal heart rate and getting enough rest. The Eagles look just as fresh, maybe fresher, than they did after a wild Week 1 in Washington.

”I think our players have taken care of themselves and really understand what we're trying to get accomplished, and I think it showed,” Kelly said. “But I don't think it's because it's December. I think it showed earlier in the year, too. I watch our players each week, and I believe we're fresh when we go play games on Sundays.”

The Eagles are finally seeing the results. They outscored the Lions 28-6 in the fourth quarter in the Snow Globe Game after being blanked 39-0 in that crucial frame over the past four weeks.

“It’s the system, the sports science,” said Jackson. “I can’t give out a lot of secrets because there’s a lot of other teams out there listening, but we’re staying late, practicing hard, getting our legs back early in the week. … So, at the same time, we work, but at the same time we take care of our bodies, but there’s a lot of things we're doing.”

Kelly, as usual, wouldn’t take credit.

“When we meet, we talk about our opponent,” he said. “I don't stand up there and talk about what your heart rate is. We're coaching football.”

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