Fresh into town and still unfamiliar with the playbook, he was mostly a spectator on Monday, but being back in a football setting was enough after a difficult couple of months on the outside looking in.
"I was sitting on my couch for the past two months, working out, flying all over the place, so it just feels good to be back out on the field and have some pads and cleats and stuff on," said Hackenberg, who scrambled to get into town after signing with the team Sunday. "Whether it be watching practice for right now or being able to stay after and throw for 25, 30 minutes and actually get good work in with the team, I think that's what you miss the most, so that's the coolest part."
Hackenberg was traded from the New York Jets to the Oakland Raiders in May after a pair of disappointing seasons in New York for a conditional seventh-round pick. The Raiders waived him in June, however, negating the trade and leaving Hackenberg without a home. It was a fast slide from 2016 second-round pick to being on the fringe of the league.
"It was my first training camp I haven't been in since I can remember in some form," he said. "It was tough, and it was a lot of work. But being able to finally get that call and come in and do things, it put things in perspective. You take things for granted so many times in your life and you don't miss it until it is taken away from you for a little bit. And I understand it wasn't like a year or anything like that -- there's been way crazier stories -- but getting a taste of that, it's not a good sandwich to bite into."
Accuracy has been at the root of the issue for Hackenberg, who saw his completion percentage dip at Penn State. He has been working with throwing coach Jeff Christensen in an attempt to improve his mechanics. By his count, they've put in 85 two-a day sessions since January largely to clean up his footwork, which he believes has eliminated inefficiencies in his throwing motion, and develop a tighter, more compact delivery.
Hackenberg, who worked out for the Patriots and the Texans before signing with the Eagles, concedes there is still plenty of room to grow, and believes the Eagles coaching staff, led by Doug Pederson, can help.
"It's been impressive what they've done since they've been here," he said. "Their tutelage has shown on the field. Carson [Wentz] has played really well, Nick [Foles] played incredible, it just goes down the line with that. So I'm really excited for that opportunity."
Hackenberg and Wentz are both members of the 2016 draft class and were counselors together for the Elite 11 quarterback competition. Hackenberg has long admired Wentz, both because of the way he carries himself and for his play. He also spoke of the benefit of working alongside Foles, who bounced from team to team and nearly retired from the league before his incredible Super Bowl MVP run during the 2017 season.
"I think you see examples of that all over the league," he said. "I think that's what's so cool. And I bet you if you ask Nick, he had some times where he just started focusing on those little things, and eventually, those little things turned into big things. That's been some of the advice that I've picked up from some of the older guys I've been around. I got a chance to spend some time with Drew Stanton, who has kind of been all over the place, has been up and down through things, too. Having a guy like Nick, that's a big resource to have just in terms of the experience. Not necessarily just playing ball or anything like that, but the experience of the NFL and the ups and downs of it."
Hackenberg isn't sure what the Eagles' intentions are for him; he hasn't asked, opting instead to just show up and work. With Wentz, Foles and Nate Sudfeld all in the fold, it won't be an easy roster to crack. Hackenberg is just trying to stay in the moment. He declined to talk about what went wrong with the Jets and said he isn't setting expectations now that he's in Philly, but focusing instead on "falling in love with the process" once again.
"It's my opportunity, whenever that comes, whatever this is, I assume they signed me for a reason," he said, "so I'm just going to come in and give them everything I have in terms of picking it up, trying to push myself and learn as much as I can mentally and take that on while also making sure I stay up on everything physically. So it's going to be tough but it's a challenge and I'm excited for it. Like I said, it's better than sitting on the couch."