On Monday afternoon, Eagles alumni stopped by practice at the NovaCare Complex to catch up with current Eagles players and coaches.
Brandon Graham can't wait to be sore again.
The Eagles' defensive end has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list for all of Training Camp with a high ankle sprain he suffered last December. It's an injury he played through during the playoffs and while making the Super Bowl's most important defensive play. But Monday, he was cleared to rejoin the team on the field and practice in a limited role.
He admits that right now, it may hurt to sack a quarterback. But that's all part of getting back into football shape.
"When I do start hitting people, I'm going to be so sore," Graham told reporters at his locker before practice on Monday. "But you need to work through that soreness like we always do and eventually that soreness will start to become your armor and you continue to keep building on that. So I can feel good about that and be like, 'Alright, I'm back in it.'"
Graham said sitting out during camp gave him time to reflect and observe the team from another perspective. But he also doesn't want to fall behind both in terms of X's and O's and his health.
"Ankle feels pretty good, but now I'm just getting in football shape," Graham said. "So you have another uphill battle, but we're always uphill, the season's uphill, so that's what I'm trying to do."
Graham did not want to guarantee playing in Week 1 or in the final two preseason games. His focus is to see how much he can do in practice and continue improving physically. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz told reporters on Monday that he will limit Graham at first and monitor his progress.
"I don't know how much he'll be back in the mix," Schwartz said. "There's steps he's got to take along the way. This is an important step, getting back onto practice with his teammates. But it is great to have him back.
"We haven't really missed him. He's been in all our meetings. He's been around quite a bit, and obviously he's a guy that has done a lot for our defense. It's nice to have him back on the field, but it's not like we lost him."
In Graham's absence, younger players who wouldn't have received quality reps otherwise have gained valuable experience in Training Camp and the preseason games. Graham finds that to be a major benefit for the team, especially with depth being so critical to last season's success.
"That's a blessing for them because that's what you want as a young guy to get all the reps that you can," Graham said. "Because if you're getting all the reps, you start getting more comfortable, more confident and I think those guys, we're going to need everybody ... It was big that they got those reps."
While adding Graham back into the mix may appear like it creates a logjam of talent at the defensive end position, Schwartz doesn't see it that way.
"Things that have never been said in the NFL: 'I have too many pass rushers. I have too many good corners,'" Schwartz said. "Those are things that defensive coordinators, defenses in general, value. You need to be built for the long haul. There's going to be injuries. It was well-documented last year, injuries that we had. Part of filling those was having good depth. You're not going to find a coach in the world that's going to complain about that."
Graham will not be able to reach his normal level of production quickly. It will take time to prep and get involved with the first team in practice before he is ready to take on a regular-season battle. But with the goal of starting Week 1 on his mind, whether it is practical or not, Graham has something concrete to chase.
"This week is just like a building block for Week 1 so as I continue to feel better, I'm going to keep going harder," Graham said. "And I'm just excited because now I can start counting the days down. Now, I've got 17 days to get ready."