When Kamu Grugier-Hill went down late in Saturday's practice at the NovaCare Complex with a "lower-body" injury, according to head coach Doug Pederson, it was Alex Singleton who stepped in at linebacker.
Singleton is no stranger to being in the spotlight. Before signing a reserve/futures contract with the Eagles this past January, the 25-year-old was one of the stars of the Canadian Football League. In three seasons up north, Singleton won a Grey Cup, was named the CFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and twice earned all-star honors with the Calgary Stampeders.
"I love that game. I love Calgary. It still means a whole bunch to me and all of those fans still reach out every day," Singleton said. "The CFL is such a tight-knit group that I have Tiger Cat fans, Toronto fans, Edmonton fans, Saskatchewan fans who are rivals but reach out and follow the Eagles just as much because I'm here. It's cool to know you kind of have a whole country behind you. It makes it pretty special."
There are some stark differences between the NFL and the CFL from the numbers of players on the field (22 in the NFL, 24 in Canada) to the rules (four chances for a first down in the NFL, three in Canada) to the dimensions of the playing surface (the Canadian field is longer, wider, and the hash marks provide more space for the offense). But Singleton points out that the way the game is played in much similar now than when he left for Canada. The NFL was welcoming in more spread concepts, incorporating more of the elements of the college game in 2016. That was the style of play already in place in Canada.
"The fact that the NFL is going to that CFL game kind of helped out," Singleton said.
This isn't Singleton's first NFL Training Camp. He was originally signed by Seattle as a rookie free agent out of Montana State in 2015. He bounced from Seattle to New England back to Seattle then to Minnesota in less than a calendar year before going to Calgary.
Singleton caught the eyes of the Eagles' coaches in the spring. Linebackers coach Ken Flajole referred to the 6-2, 240-pound Singleton as "a tough nut" and a player he wanted to see when the pads went on at Training Camp.
On Thursday, Singleton will make his Eagles preseason debut against Tennessee. It remains to be seen how many snaps Singleton will get whether it's on defense or special teams, but he at least resolved one dilemma. Although Singleton is back in the United States, it's the farthest he's ever been from his hometown of Thousand Oaks, California. Calgary was a 2 1/2-hour flight. There was never a direct flight to Montana State, so that trip was longer than expected. But nothing compared to Philadelphia. Singleton's mom, Kim, is working on the family's plans for attending the game, but at the very least he will have friends watching at Lincoln Financial Field.
"My mom's biggest concern is always having someone there to see after the game and be with you, so I will have people there which always makes it pretty special," he said.