Andre Dillard Returns to Eagles Looking ‘Bigger, Faster, Stronger’

Andre Dillard

Getty Former first-round pick Andre Dillard is returning from a season-ending biceps injury in 2021.

Jason Peters might be back in the building, but the left tackle job isn’t on his mind. He’s the right guard this year, with the blindside belonging to Andre Dillard.

Dillard, the Eagles’ 2019 first-round pick, raised eyebrows after getting into a fight and breaking down in tears during last year’s training camp. There were some who started to question his mental psyche. Not Doug Pederson, though. The head coach stuck with the second-year tackle and penciled him as his Week 1 starter.

During a recent interview with Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro, Pederson went into detail about what went into that decision. More importantly, he shared an interesting tidbit about Dillard’s physical appearance. The 24-year-old reported to training camp earlier this week looking “bigger” and “faster” and “stronger.” He’s reportedly bulked up to 335 pounds, up 20 from last year.

“He’s gotten bigger. He’s gotten faster. He’s gotten stronger,” Pederson told Spadaro. “From what I’ve seen, from just kind of bumping into him the last couple of days and seeing where he is, I’m excited. And I’m encouraged because of what he did last year for us. Here’s a rookie left tackle in the National Football League having to block some of the top defensive ends in the league.”

Pederson went on to call out some of the big names Dillard faced in 2019, guys like the Bears’ Khalil Mack and the Vikings’ Everson Griffen (still a free agent, by the way). He credited Dillard for holding his own and thinks that should give him confidence heading into this season.

“He did a really good job and that gives him confidence,” Pederson said. “And now he’s had an entire offseason to really work his body, to work his strength and conditioning, and that gives him confidence coming into camp.”

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Understanding COVID-19 Protocols at NovaCare Complex

Spadaro also ran down the new protocols in place at the NovaCare Complex with Pederson and Ted Rath, the team’s new director of sports performance. The organization transformed the entire practice facility into a fortress of safety. Additional weight rooms were constructed (15 athletes per gym). Hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations were installed. And microbial devices were placed in every handle in the building.

“We’re safe. We’re protected. You show up to work in the middle of a pandemic and you really don’t have to worry about anything because the protocols have been put in place,” Rath told Spadaro.

Pederson added that it’s all about trusting each other, and his early message to the team was to embrace the protocols. Players are required to wear masks and practice social distancing inside the building, as well as undergoing screening and filling out questionnaires before entering.

“My message early has been let’s just embrace it, it is what it is,” Pederson said. “We got to coach and teach with masks on — let’s keep them on, let’s protect one another. Because I know if we’re healthy and we remain healthy, good things are going to happen for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Some other “new luxuries” for the players include personal soft tissue devices (read: massage machines), state-of-the-art PPE masks, and dedicated cleaning crews that disinfect the weight rooms in between sessions and wipe down every piece of equipment touched.

Added Rath: “You can attack success or you can fear failure and we’re definitely not going to fear failure. We’re going to go attack this thing.”

The Amazing Kobe Bryant Mural Explained

Much ado has been made about the new mural honoring Kobe Bryant, located just outside the Eagles’ locker room. It was a viral sensation earlier this week after Alshon Jeffery posted a photo. On Wednesday, the Eagles’ official website went into detail about how it got there and whose idea it was.

The mural was a collaborative effort from several people, including Pederson and GM Howie Roseman, as well as Jon Ferrari (VP of Football Operations) and Greg Delimitros (VP of Equipment Operations). The players also contributed to its inspiration following the outpouring of love and support they expressed for Bryant after his tragic death last January.

“After the tragedy, the idea of the ‘Kobe Wall’ came about. We decided to freshen up some of the look in the building, around the locker room, around the weight room area,” Ferrari told Spadaro. “The outpouring of emotion from the guys on the team and with (cornerback) Darius Slay joining the team and picking jersey No. 24 as a tribute to Kobe because of what Kobe meant to him, the competitiveness that Kobe had was the kind of messaging that we’d like to have around the building, so it was really Coach and Howie’s idea to develop that wall.”

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