mcall.com
Nick Fierro


At this time a year ago, Philadelphia Eagles rookie Corey Clement was playing at Wisconsin and had just two more games on his mind: an early December meeting with Penn State and a bowl game against an opponent to be determined a month later.

At the same time, fellow rookie Derek Barnett’s regular season was already over. All he and his Tennessee teammates had left was the Music City Bowl against Nebraska, with nearly a month to prepare.

Now they’re part of a rookie contingent in Philadelphia whose season is essentially just getting started.

Sure, the Eagles have already played 11 games. But with five left in the regular season and as many as four more after that, this upcoming stretch run will be unquantifiably more stressful than anything their rookie class, which also includes Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Nathan Gerry, Jake Elliott, Rasul Douglas and five members of the practice squad, has encountered.

The grind of getting up for games that mean more each week throughout December is something they’re experiencing for the first time, and the Eagles will need them to find a way to come out the other side without cracking.

An upcoming West Coast road swing that has them playing NFC West title contenders in back-to-back weeks without coming home in between normally would raise the alert level for young players.

But thanks to sports science, some strong veteran leadership and the overall feeling of euphoria generated by the team’s 10-1 start, the infamous “rookie wall” is not what it used be 10 years ago or even five years ago.

“I feel great,” Douglas insisted Wednesday, four days before the Eagles visit Seattle on Sunday Night Football. “I guess it’s because I’m still young. But I want to play, play, play. I just watch the vets, talk to the vets, see what the vets do, how they recover and keep their bodies right.”

Douglas enjoys the weekly grind of getting ready for a new opponent each week rather than just focusing on one game that will be played more than a month later, which is what most bowl-bound teams are doing now.

“You know what’s at stake, what you’re trying to do with the team as far as goals,” he said. “Every week it’s a big week because it’s the next week.

“So you just try to keep your body good. You always want to be at 100 percent or at least try to get to 100 percent the best you can.”

Clement views this phase of the season the same way, as something to be enjoyed because every win improves the chances of the Eagles going all the way.

“I’m ready for it,” he said. “I’ve got to be ready. I walked myself into this situation. I knew the NFL season was longer, especially [with] the [Scouting] Combine, the training leading up to it.

“They said the season is a lot longer, but I’m just trying not to hit that rookie wall they talk about.”

For Clement and the other rookies, it’s not as complicated as it used to be, thanks to training and nutrition programs that have evolved over the years to account for changes in routines after years of doing it another way.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “Just making sure I’m staying on top of my body and not get complacent. So when the days are over, I make sure I do the same thing over and over to make sure my body stays right for the next day.”

As for the mental mental grind of continuing to prepare for games each week, that actually seems to be getting easier.

“It feels like a playoff atmosphere already,” Clement said. “But at the same time, we’ve got a regular season to close out and not worry about other things in the future.”

If there is a rookie wall, it’s either not in sight or been masterfully hurdled.

LB Joe Walker (stinger) was held out of practice, as coach Doug Pederson hinted on Monday. WR Alshon Jeffery (foot), C Jason Kelce (ankle) and CB Patrick Robinson (knee) were limited. DT Beau Allen (knee), DE Derek Barnett (groin), TE Trey Burton (back) were full participants.