All-Pro center Jason Kelce is in his 12th Eagles training camp.
Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson is in his 10th training camp.
They’ve been around. They’ve seen everything. They are respected veterans whose words carry weight. They are straight shooters — they call it like they see it.
It isn’t their nature to heap praise on some rookie who hasn’t taken a snap in the NFL yet. Rookies are the guys who make water ice runs for the veterans.
Which makes their words all the more impactful.
When Kelce and Johnson talked at training camp about rookie center Cam Jurgens, they weren’t just patting their teammate on his back, giving him an attaboy.
Their praise sounded sincere and well considered. Johnson even compared Jurgens with Kelce — the highest praise, indeed.
“You notice exactly what you saw on tape,” Kelce said Saturday about the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Jurgens. “He’s strong, he’s athletic, he’s physical. He’s a very athletic player.
“I think for the most part — exactly what we thought we were getting, we’re getting. He’s a strong, athletic, fast kid.”
KELCE BATTLING COVID
Kelce is not fully engaged in the physical play along the offensive line in camp yet because of Covid.
“I feel pretty good. I’m in the Covid protocols right now,” Kelce said. “Outside of that, physically I feel good.
“I don’t really feel any cardiovascular-affected area. I feel like I’m running fine, I feel like I’m working out fine.
“I think we’re progressing really, really well. I’m excited to get back out there, actually get out there with the offense and these team drills.”
Kelce was a sixth-round draft pick in 2011, the 191st player selected overall. He has enjoyed a magnificent career — winning a Super Bowl, a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time, first-team All-Pro.
It is believed he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.
Beyond that, he is a legend in Philly.
KELCE THE MENTOR
At his first training camp in the summer of 2011, Kelce became the starter.
- “My rookie year, I didn’t get a lot of physical reps. It was a lockout year. I didn’t have an entire offseason,” Kelce said. “I got the playbook the day before I showed up for training camp.”
At OTAs, Kelce was seen working with Jurgens, mentoring the 22-year-old out of Nebraska. Know this: Not every veteran spends precious time working out with their likely successor. Kelce did. It’s Kelce showing his leadership.
- “A big part of my job, a big part of what I want to do is help these young guys out,” Kelce said.
- “And Cam being a center, a guy that I see a lot of similarities of my game to, I going to try to help in anyway I can — give him tricks of the trade, things I’ve learned, whatever.
- “We’re just going to make each other better throughout camp, we’re going to continue to work, compete and try to get better as much as we can.”
Kelce talked about possible retirement after last season before signing a one-year, $14 million deal in March. Kelce will turn 35 in November, so any year could be his final one.
He can’t help look across the field and see his successor — younger, bigger, stronger — waiting for his turn and taking the first-team reps as Kelce recuperates.
Johnson said not so fast about Kelce’s retirement. “He says it’s going to be his last year,” Johnson said. “We’ll see about that.”
When Kelce does retire, Johnson is impressed with his likely replacement.
“Super athletic, super smart,” Johnson said about Jurgens. “Stout’s [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] pressing him in the meetings and he’s answering all the questions.
“Really trying to make him ready to go ASAP. I think he can go play right now … He’s very quick. Reminds me of Kelce as far as quickness and intelligence. He’ll be a great player.”
Last year, the Eagles drafted center Landon Dickerson, of Alabama. With Kelce having an All-Pro season, Dickerson was his understudy. Dickerson was ready to go in Week 4 when Isaac Seumalo was injured and Dickerson took over at left guard.
Dickerson played excellent football and helped solidify the offensive line that helped the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing.
Jurgens possibly could fill the same role — waiting his turn behind Kelce, plus preparing to step in along the line, if he’s needed.
Kelce sees more in Jurgens than just a physical specimen.
“He’s also attention to detail,” Kelce said. “He’s locked in mentally. He’s got a great temperament.
“I really think that he’s done, not just these last two days [of camp], but since he’s been here this offseason, I think his approach has been great and I think we’re going to continue to see him improve.
“He has a very bright future ahead of him, obviously.”