Employee No. 26, also known as Cary Williams, has come to grips with it. His bags are packed, and he's heading for New England whether he likes it or not.
"I do what I'm told," the Eagles cornerback said following the team's final practice at the NovaCare Complex until Sunday. "As far as I'm concerned, coach said we have to go up there and practice against them then we're going to go up and practice against them. There's no bitterness in my heart about the situation. I look at is as an opportunity to get better."
The Eagles left town Monday afternoon for Foxboro, Mass., where they will practice with Bill Belichick's team over the next three days then play a preseason game Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
Williams' views on practicing with the Patriots are well known.
He doesn't like it. He doesn't like them. He got into a fight with one of them when the Patriots came to South Philly last summer for a couple of practices before the teams played a preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field. He called them cheaters. He said it was no coincidence that New England hasn't won a Super Bowl since being caught cheating in the Spygate case of 2007.
Turns out, Williams is not alone in his views.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins wasn't around last year when the Patriots visited. The free agent signee from New Orleans was with the Saints, though, when they went north two summers ago for joint practices with New England.
"We went up there to practice and we got whooped," Jenkins said Monday. "We got sucker-punched. I think we'll have our guard up more this time. The coaches tell you, 'Hey, you get kicked out of practice if you fight,' then you go up there thinking it's just practice and they're ramped up. It's hard to turn that switch on once you turn it off so I think we'll come in ready to go."
It could get chippy, with perhaps even another throw-down between players, even if, as expected, Eagles coach Chip Kelly and Belichick have the same no-fighting policy that was in place last year when the Patriots came to town.
Jenkins was asked whether he believes there will be more intensity than a normal practice, and he never wavered.
"I think so," he said, "and I think it needs to be that way. Competition brings the best out of both teams."
Unlike Williams, Jenkins is eager to practice against the Patriots.
"Personally, I like it," he said. "There are things that you have to do. You have to change some of your signals because you'd be dumb not to take notes on what the other team is doing, so from that standpoint you don't want to open up the entire playbook while you're there, but it's important for the team to come together and go against another team in practice day after day. Think it brings you closer together because you have to really have each other's back when you're out there. It gets ramped up and turned up and you get to really see who likes to compete and who shies away from competition."
For the Eagles' defense, that competition will come from future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. It could be an eye-opener for the rookie draft picks on that side of the ball, including nose guard Beau Allen, defensive end Taylor Hart, outside linebacker Marcus Smith and cornerback Jaylen Watkins.
"It's going to help a lot," defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "I loved going against Jay Cutler and that group we had in Chicago [Friday night]. It's one of the top offensive talents in the league. And we backed that up with New England and Tom Brady was great last year to see. You really do know where you are against the elite of the elite when you get to play and practice against them a couple days in a row. So we're all really excited about going up there and challenging ourselves and going against the best."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun