40,000 Eagles fans flock to the Linc for the team’s only open practice

Isaac and Jazzy Dyer, from Harrisburg, Pa., run up the steps to Lincoln Financial Field before the start of open practice on Sunday, August 4, 2019. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

Isaac and Jazzy Dyer, from Harrisburg, Pa., run up the steps to Lincoln Financial Field before the start of open practice on Sunday, August 4, 2019. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

Kim Doherty likes to know everything about the Philadelphia Eagles before the preseason even starts. 

“It’s a need to get to know the players, their numbers, the whole roster, and see what they’re doing to increase our chances to win a second Super Bowl,” said Dougherty, who lives in Wilmington. 

A lot of that information she can find in news articles, but what really helps her is the team’s open practices, which Doherty has attended for almost 20 years.

“I’ve been coming to practices since my son was a little boy,” she said. “We used to go to Lehigh [University] all the time — loved it.”

In a sea of green and in between “E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!” chants, Doherty was one of many people Sunday night who mourned a drastic cutback on the number of open practices Eagles fans could attend this year.

 The Eagles used to have as many as 18 open practices — the higher end of open practices in the NFL — back when the team trained at Lehigh University, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Those opportunities have dropped since 2013 when the team started to practice in South Philly.

Sunday night’s event at Lincoln Financial Field was the one and only of the 2019-20 season, and was attended by more than 40,000 Birds fans.

The decision to cut back to one open practice came down to attendance numbers, per Eagles president Don Smolenski, who told WIP radio, “We can do this in one practice and we can schedule the time.” 

The team also charged $10 per ticket — a first — with the proceeds going to the Eagles Autism Challenge.

Doherty has season tickets, so she’ll have more chances to see her team in-person. 

But for many fans, ticket prices can limit how they support their team. 

“It’s more affordable for me to take my son to an Eagles practice than an actual game,” said Anthony Miller, of Northeast Philly, who attended his first practice with his 10-year-old son, Terrance. Both wore matching wide receiver Alshon Jeffery jerseys. 

Miller said while the $10 ticket price was manageable, he wished the team had kept the practice free.

Serenity Faulkner, along with her sister and father from Philadelphia’s Mount Airy neighborhood, echoed the sentiment.

“It’s a little bit harder to get down here,” she said, explaining how the family mostly follows the team on TV. “Because of expenses, it’s really hard to get tickets, and then by the time we can get tickets, you know, it’s sold out.”

Still, many fans said they understood the reasons for the change.

“It seems like there are a lot of logistics around it and I was happy to put the money to charity,” said Jim Moore, who has come with his father from Levittown to one open practice every summer for the last four years.

“I think it’s great to give as many as possible, but the fact that they have this and I’m here — I appreciate that the team does it.”

 No matter their view of the changes, many of the fans said they’d make the most of future open practices. But for now, their eyes are on a long post-season and a second Super Bowl ring.

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