The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the NFL’s most popular teams. Which is why it rankled some and puzzled others last month when the team announced that just one of its practices would be open to the public.
The Eagles have stayed mum on their reasons for this until now. Eagles president Don Smolenski went on local talk radio station 94WIP on Tuesday morning to explain why the team is being so unfriendly and unwelcoming to its dedicated fans.
Eagles president Don Smolenski says on 94 WIP that reason for open practice was: 1) what's best for the football team 2)must compromise with the neighbors 3) attendance has dropped over multiple practices 4) need to factor in field quality (Rolling Stones, preseason games)
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) July 23, 2019
Those certainly are reasons, though that doesn’t mean they’re good ones. It’s not really clear how holding just one open practice is best for the team when other teams (even contending teams) hold more. And the neighbors the Eagles have at Lincoln Financial Field are mostly parking lots and the other Philadelphia sports venues, only one of which is currently hosting games of any kind.
Smolenski offered additional clarification on the attendance drop at open practices last year.
Eagles president Don Smolenski on just one open practice this year: "What we found was, last year...only 2,500 people actually came to both [open practices]. We can do this in one practice and we can schedule the time." #Eagles | #On94WIP🎙️
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) July 23, 2019
The key word there is “both.” The Eagles held just two open practices in 2018, in the summertime when many people are on vacation and traveling. From 2015-2018 they held two open practices a year. When you’re only offering two open practices, looking at attendance seems pretty silly. The Denver Broncos are holding 19 (!) open practices this year. If they’re concerned about attendance, it’s only because they want to give as many fans as possible the chance to see their team.
The final reason Smolenski gave was field quality, which is actually a legitimate concern. Lincoln Financial Field will host the Eagles’ preseason games as well as an upcoming Rolling Stones concert. Field condition is an issue, but it seems like a pretty weak one considering what most football stadiums go through as multi-use venues.
Eagles fans are rabid, but like most fan bases, they want their team to win a Super Bowl. If Smolenski came out and said that the team finds open practices distracting or detrimental to its development, there would still be grumbling, but at least it would be a concrete reason. The Eagles waited over a month to offer any reasons why they’re holding just one open practice, and almost none of them hold any water. If fans are still miffed after hearing Smolenski defend the team’s decision, they have a right to be.
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