Rookies excited to report to Eagles' camp

Posted: July 24, 2012

BETHLEHEM – You can tell rookie reporting date from the arrival of Eagles veterans not so much by the luxuriousness of the cars, or the quantity of the luggage, but by the chipper attitudes.

The fellows interviewed Sunday heading into Lehigh were just thrilled to be here, eager to start working out under the late-July sun as they begin their professional careers. Living in a dorm? Sharing a room? They've been doing that for at least 4 years. No biggie.

Veterans tend to have a different perspective, one focused on getting out of here and back to Philadelphia, something that won't happen until Aug. 15 this year.

"I'm excited," said fourth-round corner and return man Brandon Boykin, from Georgia. "It's kinda surreal … I just kind of want to soak it all in . . . I've been waiting on this ever since I got home" from organized team activities in the spring. "I'm definitely glad it's here, ready to get going, ready to see how I can do in this NFL atmosphere."

Seventh-round running back Bryce Brown, from Kansas State, is trying to distance himself from a past that includes leaving the Tennessee and Kansas State programs. "It'll sink in when I make the 53-man roster," he said, when asked if being an NFL player felt real to him yet. "I don't feel comfortable, I don't feel at ease, I don't feel relaxed."

Third-round quarterback Nick Foles, from Arizona, said: "I can't wait to get out there and practice."

Boykin, Brown and Foles are part of the most highly touted rookie class the Eagles have had in Andy Reid's tenure. None of them seemed flustered to hear that; they seem to expect to contribute.

"I think it's a great class," Brown said. "I'm excited to be part of the group."

The crown jewel, of course, is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, from Mississippi State, drafted 12th overall in April. Cox got a boost toward a starting job Sunday when the Eagles announced that veteran starting defensive tackle Mike Patterson will sit out training camp as his skull heals from offseason surgery.

Eagles coach Andy Reid mentioned veteran Antonio Dixon first, when asked who would start in Patterson's place, but he definitely didn't close the door on Cox.

"First-round draft picks, you expect a lot out of," Reid said. "We've had success there, Mike Patterson being one of them, Corey Simon being another. We've had success with that position and guys getting in and playing early, so I would anticipate when he gets in there, he'll be working with the ‘ones' and doing that."

There was one guy, very definitely not a rookie, who was excited to be at Lehigh Sunday.

"I like the whole bit about coming up to Lehigh," Reid said. "I love that you're able to develop some camaraderie. We're stuck in the dorms up there for a few weeks here, so you get to know the guy next to you. You understand your teammates and you develop this relationship there.

“Then, you do the same thing with the physical play on the field. I think it's important … from a coaching standpoint, you kind of find out who's going to be with you during the tough times. Every game, you're presented with the highs and the lows. Who's going to be there during the lows? Who's going to push themselves? No matter how you work this sport, you've got to be mentally tough to do this thing, no matter how you cut it; new rules, regulations, everything. You've got to be one tough son of a gun to do this thing, and you develop that out here.

“Then, the other part of that is, this game is about blocking and tackling. Again, no matter how you cut it, it's about blocking and tackling, and the further you go in the playoffs, the better team you are, the better you are at blocking and tackling. You see those teams that finish up the season, those are normally your best teams that can do both of those things. So, we work on that here and we're going to continue to do that."

Vets report Wednesday. The first public, full-team practice is scheduled for Friday at 2:45 p.m.

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com.

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