By Ed Benkin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The NFL has become a year round obsession.  For the players, the time for some R and R has arrived.

The Eagles finished off their final day of mini-camp on Thursday in South Philadelphia.  It was the final off-season workout of the spring and the players and coaches will now enjoy some time off before returning for training camp at the end of July.  Head Coach Doug Pederson is hoping his players will make the most of their five-and-a-half week break with the grind of another physical camp on the horizon.

“They have worked extremely hard,” said Pederson.  “I’m proud of the fact that they came in and worked hard.  Don’t lose sight of that.  I mentioned to them that training camp is going to be tough and physical and I wanted them to be prepared mentally and physically to come into camp ready to go.”

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The Eagles are hoping their off-season workouts served as the first step towards improvement in 2017. Much is still to be determined in training camp and the exhibition season, but Pederson is pleased with much of what he has seen so far in the off-season.  Pederson also believes the returning players learned something at the end of the 2016 campaign which has carried over to 2017.

“The guys that were here began to really kind of feed off of the last couple of games of last year,” Pederson said.  “That was encouraging to see and see them kind of nurture that throughout the entire off-season…come together as a family.  They talk about being brothers and that’s what I saw with this group and that’s the exciting part for me in the second year.”

Some of the Eagles’ skill players will spend time with Carson Wentz in North Dakota.  The second-year quarterback is hosting several of his teammates to create an opportunity to bond more both on and off the field.  Tight End Zach Ertz is one of the players who plans to head to Wentz’s off-season home.

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“I think it’s huge,” said Ertz.  “We’re building that chemistry.  During these off-season programs in camp, you never really get to hang out with anyone because everything is so football focused.  When you get that down time to kind of relax and hang out with the guys, I think it’s refreshing for everyone.”

Rest will be needed during this time off for the Eagles with another physical training camp on the horizon. Pederson showed last year that his camps are much tougher than the ones run by former coach Chip Kelly.  While most players will continue to work out on their own to stay fresh for training camp, Safety Malcolm Jenkins talked about the importance of getting in time away from football.

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“You stay healthy during this time,” Jenkins said.  “But you also get your mind off the game a little bit.  It’s a long season.  When you start it off with a really tough camp, it seems longer by the time you get to the season.”

Pederson also had a message for his players concerning their conduct off the field before they left South Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I told them to be smart,” said Pederson.  “Make good choices and good decisions and get their minds and body ready for July.”

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