For every sad story and every empty locker, however, there is a counterbalance somewhere in the room. For every Daniel Te'O-Nesheim, there is a Phillip Hunt. For every Mike McGlynn, there is a Jason Kelce. And standing near the middle of the room was the newest player, Kyle DeVan, a veteran guard whose unexpected availability ended Thornton's brief reprieve.
DeVan, entering his third NFL season, was cut by Indianapolis on Saturday. A little after noon on Sunday, he was offered a contract by the Eagles. By early evening he was on a plane to Philadelphia, and at 6:30 a.m. Monday he walked into the NovaCare Complex for the first time.
"I thought I was going to stay in Indianapolis and be part of the team, then everything's taken away from you," DeVan said. "You kind of sit around for a couple of hours and then you say, 'I got to move on. I got to find another team. I got to find something to do.' It was a tough time, but I'm happy to be here."
By some strange twist of either fate or karma, DeVan landed the locker next to defensive tackle Trevor Laws, against whom he wrestled a titanic heavyweight match in high school, the actual outcome of which the two men have debated for more than eight years.
"Hopefully, we don't get in another wrestling match," DeVan said.
What DeVan might have taken on, however, is a serious competition for playing time. He worked under offensive line coach Howard Mudd with the Colts in 2009 and knows Mudd's quirky system of blocking techniques and his overall scheme. There is little question DeVan is here because Mudd knows what he can give the Eagles, and because there is still some uncertainty about the starters currently in place.
Veteran Evan Mathis is the left guard, and he has been solid enough that the Eagles moved Todd Herremans from that position to plug a yawning void at right tackle. At right guard, however, rookie Danny Watkins hasn't inspired much confidence. DeVan might be merely an insurance policy, or he could work himself into the regular rotation. Either way, hooking on at the last moment in the NFL is nothing new for him.
DeVan was undrafted out of Oregon State, and was eventually cut once by the Redskins and three times by the Jets without ever making it into uniform. He was a substitute teacher back home in Vacaville, Calif. before hooking on with the Boise Burn of the af2 arena league, playing for $250 per game if the team won and $200 if the team lost.
He got an April 2009 tryout with the Colts, and Mudd liked what he saw then - a tough, agile guard who fit the team's aggressive style on the offensive line. From there, DeVan beat out Mike Pollak, a former second-round pick, for the right guard job, and, less than 10 months after his last substitute-teaching gig, DeVan was playing in the Super Bowl.
Once you make that kind of leap, nothing seems impossible.
"I'm not worried about whether I'm taking reps with the ones, twos, or threes," said DeVan, who practiced Monday with the second-string scout team. "It's about learning the offensive playbook and the way they do things here. The quicker I do that, the quicker I can worry about playing time. As soon as I get the playbook down, we'll see what happens."
Meanwhile, he has to stay patient as Laws once again recounts the 2003 high school wrestling match in which Laws, the No. 1-ranked heavyweight in the nation, outpointed No. 4-ranked DeVan, 3-2, in a clash of the titans on Laws' home turf in Minnesota.
"Time was running down and I started going after him," DeVan said. "I took him down and we were on the edge of the mat. I thought I got the takedown, but the ref didn't call it. I've told him every time I've seen him since, it was a homer call."
"We were in Minnesota, that's true," Laws said. "But he only had one leg, didn't climb the waist, didn't cut to the double. Anyone who knows the rules, that's no two [points]. . . . He's been trash- talking the whole time, saying it was two. It was not two."
Maybe they can finally get this sorted out, now that their lockers are adjacent. Perhaps even a spontaneous rematch some afternoon after banging heads during practice.
That would be fine with DeVan, who is happy to be here, happy to be anywhere. On the Monday after cut-down day, it's nice just to have a locker. DeVan's arrival was so fresh the team hadn't even fashioned a nameplate for him. Above his locker, a generic plate read Philadelphia Eagles. That was all right with him. A lot of other players would take that deal this week, too.
Contact columnist Bob Ford
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