This isn't the first time Allen Barbre has faced competition in his roller coaster NFL career. He's never had the benefit of "having it made." He's fought and scraped and scratched his way to his ninth season in the league and is playing, he says, the best football of his life.
The 119th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, Barbre has missed a season with an injury. He's been released four times. He's been suspended by the league. He's had plenty of sour to enjoy every second of the sweet with the Eagles, for whom he is in line to start for a second consecutive season.
"You know, I'm really happy to still be playing," Barbre said after Wednesday's practice, laughing. "It's been nine years and this is my 10th Training Camp. I've been up and I've been down. It's been a roller coaster of a career. I've been hurt, I've been out of the league and there was a time when I thought I might be done playing. I attribute the opportunity to still be here to the Lord for giving me this chance to play the game and I'm capitalizing on this. I enjoy being able to play.
"Looking back, man, I can't even imagine still being here."
Barbre starts at left guard on an offensive line that expects to have a bounce-back year. Nothing, of course, is etched in stone for Barbre, who must fend off veteran Stefen Wisniewski and rookie Isaac Seumalo for the left guard position. Wisniewski has played extremely well at right guard in place of starter Brandon Brooks, out with a hamstring injury. Brooks should be back at practice in the next few days, so what becomes of Wisniewski? He may very well move to left guard and push Barbre, who totally understands the picture.
You see, when you're Allen Barbre, you understand that you don't take anything for granted.
Barbre was drafted by Green Bay in 2007 and played three years with the Packers before he was released in September 2010. Three weeks later, Barbre joined Seattle and played with the Seahawks for two months. Then another release. Miami signed Barbre in December, but then he was injured and released in September 2011. Barbre played four games for Seattle in the 2011 season and then was suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
He didn't play in the 2012 season. Career over? Not yet. Not by a long shot.
The Eagles signed Barbre in 2013 and he played a valuable role as a reserve linemen. He was rewarded with a contract extension through 2017 before suffering a season-ending broken ankle in the 2014 opener against Jacksonville. Ugh.
"You just have to keep working hard and stay on an even keel," said Barbre, who returned from his injury to start all 16 games last season at left guard. "I'm at a point now where I think I'm playing my best football. I added some weight the last couple of years (he plays at 315 pounds after starting his career at 300 pounds) and I think that has helped me get stronger. I've always been quick and I can run all day. That weight has helped me.
"I started last year and I had an OK, up-and-down here-and-there year just as everything else was up and down with our offense. I felt I could come back this year and work hard and take the next step from where I was last year. It's either up and down in the NFL. You don't stay the same. I worked on some small things, small details, and it has helped take me to the next level."
Does the next level include starting this season? Or is Barbre going to be the sixth lineman capable of backing up at both guard spots and at tackle?
That remains to be seen. We've still got a week to go before the opening preseason game. Every rep is a good one as Barbre continues building continuity with left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce.
"He's a very reliable player, extremely good with his hands in pass pro (protection). In run blocking he's a very powerful, explosive guy," Kelce said. "I think he's doing a great job in this camp. Obviously, there's been some scrutiny at that position, but Allen is doing a good job of controlling what he can control and he's going out there and playing football.
"He competes every single day and he's done a great job so far."
Kelce lauded Barbre's athleticism as part of what the Pro Bowl center said is "if not the, one of the most athletic offensive lines in the NFL."
"He's a very athletic guy for an offensive lineman," Kelce said of Barbre.
Maybe one of the most obscure Eagles, Barbre has quietly enjoyed a terrific Training Camp. He's making it difficult for the Eagles to replace him, which has been the theme of an improbably long and successful NFL career.