The goal for Brandon Brooks, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in January's playoff loss at New Orleans, has always been to play when the Eagles open the regular season on September 8 against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field, and he’s one step closer after being cleared to participate in one-on-one drills at Training Camp.
“One-on-ones are the closest you can get to 'team’ (11-on-11) parts of practice and still have a controlled environment, so it’s one step in the right direction,” Brooks said on Sunday. “If things go well there, we’ll move into the team stuff. That’s always been the plan, to see how I’ll react to the one-on-one drills.
“Everything is on schedule. I’m excited. We’ll see how it goes in this next phase.”
Brooks has made a remarkable recovery from an injury that, not too long ago, “Guys didn’t come back from. Period," as he put it.
Brooks said the injury “feels good” and that he “doesn’t have any issue” in the Achilles tendon. He is still working hard to build strength in the tendon, and that is also coming on schedule. In fact, Brooks thinks he is stronger overall than he’s ever been because he spent so much time in rehabilitation and working out throughout the offseason.
That’s an encouraging feeling for a two-time Pro Bowl player who is still taking his recovery on a day-by-day basis.
“It’s probably the hardest offseason of work I’ve ever put in,” Brooks said. “I think I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and that I’m in the best shape I’ve been in, even though I haven’t been playing. I’m looking forward to seeing how I react to this. I think it’s going to go fine. It’s the next step for me, and I’m right where I wanted to be and where I need to be.”
With Brooks sidelined throughout the preseason, the Eagles have used Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right guard, and he’s played well. The blessing in disguise here is that Vaitai, a swing tackle until this preseason, has cross-trained and taken good reps inside. The Eagles’ depth along the offensive line could be critical during this long season.
But if all goes well, Brooks will return to the starting lineup flanked by tackle Lane Johnson and center Jason Kelce, and Vaitai will go back to being the first guard or tackle off the bench.