Because he was going on less than four hours of sleep, you might be tempted to forgive Nate Allen for dropping the first ball thrown to him all day. But that's not how life in the NFL works.
Allen, who didn't get into bed until around 2:30 AM last night and had a 6:15 AM wakeup call, dropped a lob thrown to him during the positional warm-up drills. So did Dick Jauron, Allen's position coach, let the rookie slide on his first practice of training camp? Of course not. Allen had to hit the ground and give Jauron the proverbial 20.
"It was a wakeup call," Allen said. "Just don't drop the ball. I don't know what happened on that, but those pushups definitely woke me up."
To his credit, Allen didn't drop another ball all practice and impressed the coaches, specifically head coach Andy Reid, with his knowledge of the defense.
"He didn't look like he had missed much from the mental standpoint," Reid said. "We threw a few different formations at him and he seemed to make all the adjustments well and he's making all the calls back there.
"Nate's very intelligent. I think he has very good ball skills. I know somehow he got labeled as not being a physical guy, I think he's a very physical player. Off of what he did in college, I'll be curious to see again how he sustains once the veterans get in here and we start cranking it up, but I would expect he'll do very well there.
"(Free safety) is tough from the standpoint that you're making a lot of calls and you have to get people lined up so you can't be shy and then you've got to be able to recognize what's going on in front of you. You can tell how the players respect him, at least in the mini-camps, where they knew that he knew how to make the adjustments, so they had some trust there and that's an important part of it. The rest of it becomes a physical thing and I think he has the skill to do it."
And those are the reasons that Reid confirmed that right now Allen, the 37th overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft, is the Eagles starting free safety.
"It's an opportunity," Allen said. "I just know I have to learn as much as I can because I'm still learning and just getting in with the veteran guys and the coaches and just trying to take advantage, make plays and help the team win.
"You just need to run with it because it's your chance to show what you can do and you just need to learn as much as you can. That's what I'm trying to do right now."
Allen said that sitting at home and missing camp was killing him, because he wanted nothing more than to be out on the field. The level-headed Allen has a thirst for knowledge and said himself that "every rep counts."
"I was talking to my agent, pushing him like, 'Hey, when's a deal going to get done?' because I was just ready to get up here and start working," Allen said. "I felt like I was getting behind, but I'm glad to be up here finally."
As for Allen's command of the playbook, the rookie knows you can never be too prepared.
"I feel confident in what we doing so far, but I have a lot to go and I have a lot to learn still," he said. "It's just getting comfortable in it because I've only been in the system a couple of months, but that's no excuse. I have to take it and run with it and get in the playbook."
So for Allen, the next three weeks or so will be all about studying the playbook all day and then implementing that knowledge when he's on the football field. Well, that and catching up on some sleep.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 12:44 p.m., July 28