Eagles Notebook: Free agents finally join Eagles practice

works at yesterday morning's practice at Lehigh.YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
works at yesterday morning's practice at Lehigh.YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER (Nnamdi Asomugha)
Posted: August 06, 2011

BETHLEHEM - Free at last, free at last, great - OK, maybe that's a little bit over the top.

But the 13 veteran free agents signed by the Eagles since the lockout ended finally got to practice with their new teammates yesterday, and they were pretty darned excited about it.

"Good to be a football player again," said Ryan Harris, the right tackle the Birds signed away from Denver. "I'm already familiar with a lot of things; I just have to pick up the different verbiage that we use here . . . I think everybody on the team's excited to get the new guys in and see what we can do, see if we can help the team, and really, see what our team's going to look like . . . that started today."

The spotlight was on the defensive backfield, where corner Nnamdi Asomugha took the field for the first time as an Eagle, as fans and reporters tried to assess how the Eagles are going to juggle Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Yesterday, they weren't on the field at the same time much, Rodgers-Cromartie running mostly with the second-team defense except when the Birds fielded an intriguing dime package that had Samuel and Rodgers-Cromartie on the corners, Joselio Hanson as a nickelback and Asomugha as a sort of quasi-linebacker or rover, covering the tight end.

"No more tight ends killing us," Hanson quipped afterward. He said in that alignment, offenses "aren't going to have any window to throw the ball."

"It was good to get out there and get the movement down again," said Asomugha, who intercepted another first-day participant, Vince Young. "It was good to get an interception on the first day. You don't have to [wonder] do you still have your technique down, it's been so long."

Asomugha played man coverage exclusively in Oakland, as Eagles coach Andy Reid noted yesterday. He has a few things to learn about the way the rest of the NFL plays defense.

"He welcomes that . . . he wants to be moved around," Reid said.

"I was mixed up so many times," Asomugha confessed. "It was good to do that, to make those mistakes, so that you don't have to make them in the future."

The only person who might not have been thrilled to see so many athletic corners was quarterback Michael Vick, who still lacks his top two wideouts, Jeremy Maclin (illness) and DeSean Jackson (holdout). The matchups of Sinorice Moss, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Chad Hall and Co. against the Big Three were pretty painful to watch, particularly the deeper patterns.

"It's fun," Vick said. "You get to challenge yourself every day."

Wouldn't that challenge be a little less unfair with Maclin and Jackson running patterns, though?

"I miss both of 'em," Vick acknowledged. "I just gotta work with the guys I've got, try to make the most of it. Try to make those guys look good, as well."

Asked if he had a timeframe for Jackson's return, Vick offered only a terse "no." Jackson must report by Tuesday or he cannot become a free agent after this season.

Vick said he noticed more speed in the secondary with Asomugha roaming free, and a stronger push up the middle with defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins finally able to practice.

"Cullen, in the nine-on-seven drill, he was all around my legs and pushing guys," Vick said.

"I think I messed up one time out there, just a mental mistake," Jenkins said. "But besides that, it's just a matter of getting conditioning right, cardio right, so I can go hard every play."

Earlier this week, Samuel seemed skeptical about whether the Eagles truly planned to keep all three Pro Bowl corners. The more time passes, the more likely that becomes. For whatever reason, Samuel was extremely playful with Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie when Lurie visited camp Thursday; Lurie seemed to go out of his way to express affection toward the corner whose 36 picks over the past five seasons lead the league.

"They pay me to come in and go to work every day, so that's what I'm going to do," Samuel said yesterday. "Seems to be going pretty good. It was definitely great to have everybody out there."

Samuel declined to answer a question about whether the Eagles might have approached him about restructuring his contract.

A helping of Tupou

It was mildly surprising to see Fenuki Tupou, who has been a backup left tackle in this camp, taking reps with the first team at right tackle yesterday. Tupou, a massive 6-5, 325-pound fifth-round draftee from 2009, has lurked on the fringes of the roster the past 2 years, not making much of an impression. But he looked just fine yesterday.

"It seems like I've been here forever," Tupou said. "I've had opportunities before, but I've been hampered by injuries. I'm just trying to stay healthy and make the most of it."

Andy Reid, asked about Tupou, said: "Fenuki is a strong, smart kid and has a knack for staying in front of people in the pass game. Sometimes that's half the battle, doesn't matter how pretty it looks. As long as he gets the job done, that's the bottom line. We felt he deserved a look over there."


Ryan Harris doesn't yet have a name on the back of his No. 64 jersey. So most fans don't know who he is and aren't giving him blocking advice, or asking him to wave, etc. "Anonymity has its advantages," Harris said . . . Defensive end Ricky Sapp, who left camp several days ago, apparently distressed over how his repaired knee was bothering him, returned and was released, the Eagles said . . . Jeremy Maclin watched practice in jersey and shorts. Andy Reid reiterated what Maclin said Thursday, that the wideout is expected to be ready for the season. Reid again declined to discuss Maclin's illness, saying only that tests were being analyzed . . . Jason Babin purchased No. 93 from Trevor Laws for an undisclosed sum; Laws took No. 91, with Darryl Tapp going to No. 55 . . . Laws (hip flexor) remains sidelined . . . Corner/returner Jorrick Calvin suffered a shoulder injury yesterday, Reid said. Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon said his mild knee sprain is better . . . Safety Marlin Jackson worked on the side with a trainer after experiencing what Reid said was groin tightness.

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