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August 20, 2019

Hot weather unbearable for some, motivation for others as Eagles practice with Ravens

Eagles NFL
Carroll - Eagles Training Camp Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Please enjoy this generic photo of players huddling up as a team during a training camp practice.

Do you have a job that requires you to be outside for hours on end, performing hard labor repetitively under the diabolical August sun?

With the NFL season weeks away, there were 180 of them in South Philly Tuesday afternoon.

The Eagles and Ravens completed their second of two joint practices with a heat index in the triple digits. This after the same balmy heat on Sunday and Monday. For some players, it was no big deal. For others, it was almost unbearable.

"I'm from Texas. In Fort Worth it's dry, this is like, wet," Eagles offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai said after practice ended. "Hydration is one of the biggest keys here, you have to keep hydrating because you lose a lot of water weight, which causes cramps."

Vaitai, who grew up right near his eventual college (TCU) in Fort Worth, says it's much worse here than it was back at home. Fellow Texan — newly signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown — feels right at home in the sauna.

"It's not bad, I'm from East Texas," McCown, who attended Sam Houston State, just north of Houston, said. "This is alright right here. I'll take this all day. But for the big guys, you have to be smart and rehydrate and stay fresh.

One of those big guys, Australian lineman Jordan Mailata, should in theory be equipped for the hot weather having played rugby south of the Equator on the other side of the world. But it's more temperate near Sydney where he hails from.

"It's not even the heat — it's the humidity," he said (it got as high as 94%). "I can't even compare it man, it's just really ugly. 

"When you have to work out before going out, it's even worse. Mentally you're telling yourself you're not tire, but you get out here and instantly you're tired."

Across Broad Street a few days ago, Phillies star Bryce Harper had to leave a game against the Padres due to dehydration. The heat is not messing around. It is intense.

It wasn't too long ago that NFL players regularly partook in two-a-day practices and were discouraged from stopping to hydrate. In fact it was considered "manly" — back in the day — to push through. 

Mailata couldn't believe there was ever a time like that.

"I would riot. I would 100 percent cause a riot," Mailata, who also joked that no matter how much he hydrates it is "never enough," said. "Is it really considered tough? It's considered dumb; that's what it's considered."

Everyone walked off the field fine Tuesday, hydrated enough after going toe-to-toe for one of the more important practice sessions the Eagles and Ravens will have all summer. And some players even thought there was an advantage to fighting the conditions.

"It's really good for you because it helps you physically and mentally," Vaitai said. "You need things like this because you won't have it easy every time. It also helps build character too."

"I try and have good body language," Mailata added. "I look at the defensive guys [huffing and puffing] and I try and stay up straight thinking 'they look tired, they look tired.' It is tough, so tough."

By the time the Eagles season comes to an end, however, they'll be playing in freezing cold temperatures. So, which is worse?

Mailata has a clear answer: "This weather. I feel like I am about to faint to be honest."

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