Two longest-tenured Eagles look to prolong their stay

Trent Cole during a 2012 game. (Paul Connors/AP)
Trent Cole during a 2012 game. (Paul Connors/AP)
Posted: July 27, 2013

Todd Herremans walked through the players' entrance Thursday afternoon to check into his ninth training camp with the Eagles. When he started to fill out an informational sheet during his physical, he realized just how long his career has lasted.

"I'm like, 'Don't you guys have this eight times over already?' " Herremans said. "Can't you look somewhere and get all this information?"

A few hours earlier, Trent Cole made that same walk. For both Herremans and Cole, checking into camp is an annual late-July ritual. They are the two longest-tenured Eagles, and each season they have said farewell to longtime teammates. The latest was Mike Patterson.

As they seek to stretch their careers, both 30-year-olds have confessed to a feeling of renewal in their first camp under a new head coach and first camp at the team's practice facility.

Camp Kelly begins in earnest Friday at the NovaCare Complex when the full team practices for the first time. All 90 players reported without issues, with 59 checking in Thursday. They underwent physicals and conditioning tests and met as a team.

It's the unofficial start to a new season. There was the offseason program, but even that seemed like a transition from Andy Reid to Kelly. Now, the football will be continuous until at least Dec. 30, and the Eagles finally can put the ugly spectacle of last season in the rearview mirror.

"We've got a new season, new coach, tons of new players, new schemes," running back LeSean McCoy said. "Everything's so different."

Not everyone wants to forget last season, though. Cole, who has been one of the most productive Eagles in the last decade, had his worst season in 2012. He finished with just three sacks after six seasons of at least eight. The defensive line struggled, and he was not the difference-maker the Eagles desired when they signed him to a lucrative contract extension before the season.

"I told myself I'll never forget that season, and I won't forget it after my career," Cole said. "I'll keep that with me. Some people say you're supposed to let it go, it's in the past. But having a season like that, it's going to drive me and motivate me this season."

Cole enters a potentially precarious situation. The Eagles are switching to a hybrid scheme, and Cole spent much of the minicamps playing as a pass-rush linebacker. That does not play to his strengths. He shed 11 pounds and reconfigured his body to try to prolong his stay in Philadelphia.

"They'll have to drag me out of this facility, but I'm not going to fail," Cole said. "I'm going to give them no reason to have to get rid of me or anything like that."

Cole will remain with the Eagles for a few reasons. The biggest is his contract. The Eagles would take on $6.4 million in dead money if he's cut, and that's a big number to swallow. The Eagles also need pass rushers, and Cole's reputation precedes him even if he will be 31 in October.

"Being at my age and being this many years in the league, you have to change the way you do things," Cole said. "But experience has a big impact in what you do. And that's what's helping me now."

Cole and Herremans, who also will turn 31 in October, signed extensions one day apart last year, which created a convenient narrative about the two mid-round picks from 2005. They were identified as core players, and Reid showed loyalty to them. They are trying to keep that distinction under Kelly.

Like Cole, Herremans must rebound and change positions in 2013. He suffered a foot and ankle injury that caused him to miss the last eight games of 2012, and he is expected to play right guard after playing right tackle the last two seasons.

"I played the spring at right guard, so I imagine that's where I'll start out in training camp," Herremans said. "But I started at left guard two years ago and then played tackle for the rest of the season."

Herremans resisted making any grand proclamations about 2013. That would be out of character. But he can admit to a fresh start even after a training-camp physical that reaffirms just how long he has been doing this.

"Been here for a while," Herremans said. "Sometimes you stop to think about it. But if you keep reminiscing about it, before you know it, you're not going to be playing anymore."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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