Alex Singleton shared the day that he returned to the NovaCare Complex after being sidelined on the Reserve/COVID-19 list that the time away from football "drove me crazy. I was going out of my mind." For a football junkie like Singleton, who put so much into his game during the offseason only to report prior to Training Camp, fully vaccinated, and test positive for the virus, it's understandable.
Now, though, it's all behind Singleton, who was symptom-free all along. He continued to work on his conditioning and he was able to take part in virtual meetings and watch practice and keep up with his mental reps, so Singleton has hit the ground running for the Eagles' defense.
"It feels great to be back out there," said Singleton, who took part in his first practice on Saturday after watching on the sidelines for two days last week. "It was nice to be out there running around with the guys. I hated it when I was gone, but now that live bullets are going to fly around, I'm fine. I'm ready to go."
Singleton's return to the field is a boost for the defense, which is still sorting through combinations as it learns the Jonathan Gannon scheme, one that Singleton says "allows guys to be who they are," which helps the learning process. How does Singleton fit in? That remains to be seen, but the third-year linebacker wants to build on his breakout 2020 season in which he averaged 10.3 tackles in his 11 starts from Weeks 6-17. Singleton led the team in tackles with 119 and added five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles, and an interception against San Francisco that he returned for a touchdown on national television.
After years of trying to find his footing – Singleton had a few looks in the NFL (from Seattle, New England, Seattle again, and Minnesota) and then played for three seasons with Calgary in the Canadian Football League before the Eagles signed him to a reserve/future contract in 2019. He joined the team's active roster that October and hasn't looked back, making his mark first on special teams before cracking the defensive rotation. And while Singleton is still a staple on special teams – he played 70 percent of the special teams snaps last year and recorded a career-high nine tackles – he wants to make even more of an impact in the defense in 2021.
"I think I came in even more hungry. For so long in my career, I've been fighting for a spot in camp. Those eight days that I missed (when he was on the COVID list), had that been last year, I would have been sick to my stomach fighting for my life out here," Singleton said. "I've had an offseason where I've watched more film and the coaches have reached out a little more ... you're more confident that you're going to be in Philadelphia for the season. Every day is a learning process for this season. I would say that the offseason was more about confidence for me, in that it's not just me that has confidence, but other people have confidence in me."
The focus for Singleton is on what's ahead in this defense. The entire group is on the same page learning the X's and O's and very much looking forward to the preseason opener on Thursday against Pittsburgh (7:30 PM kickoff, NBC10 locally) at Lincoln Financial Field. Showtime is nearly here, and for a player who has lived on the roster bubble for so long, there's no slowing down. Singleton has always treated every on-field rep – at practice, in the preseason, and the games that count in the standings – all of his effort and attention.
That's the only way he knows how to play and it's why he is expecting to be a large contributor to the Eagles' defense in the season ahead.
"Every day, I'm ready to go, ready to compete," Singleton said. "I take nothing for granted and so it's just one day after another with a lot of hard work and focus. It's an exciting thing that we're putting together I want to see how it all plays out and how much I can help."