4:39 p.m., July 26 Graham: What A Difference A Year Makes
One year ago, Brandon Graham was the first-round draft pick and the big cheese. Everyone wanted to know how he would fit in. Now, after having microfracture surgery on his knee, Graham is a gigantic question mark.
Will he even play this season?
"No doubt about it, I'm going to be ready to go," said Graham, who is pleased that he is coming along so well in his rehabilitation. "I'm not sure when, but I'm getting there. I'm encouraged, very much so. This year for sure."
Graham, however, doesn't believe he will able to practice until September, at the earliest. He is able to backpedal and do some agility drills, and his strength is coming back in the leg, but he isn't there yet.
Still, the smile is there and Graham remains a ray of sunshine.
"I'm going to keep working and I'm going to get all the way back," he said. "I can't wait to work for Coach (Jim) Washburn. He's pretty intense. I'm going to come up with a better word for that. He's passionate. He's going to bring out greatness in our defensive line and I'm excited to be a part of that."
3:42 p.m., July 26 Finally: A Mystery Solved
I think I've solved one of the great mysteries of our time: When the Eagles were honored for Game Of The Year at ESPN's ESPY Awards, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant accepted the award, along with a person announced as running back LeSean McCoy. Well, anybody who watched the show knew it wasn't McCoy.
Now I know who it was.
"I was there and they announced the award and the guys said, 'Come on up with us.' So I went up," said safety Jamar Wall. "It was a fun, fun time."
So, in case you were wondering, there you have it. Wall played one game last year and is in the mix at safety heading into this training camp.
3:17 p.m., July 26 Overall: A Pretty Quiet Day
The news of the day: A bunch of Eagles reported to the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday, including quarterback Michael Vick, defensive end Trent Cole, running back LeSean McCoy, first-round draft pick Danny Watkins and second-round draft pick Jaiquawn Jarrett. I guess maybe 25 to 30 players reported to the Complex to get physicals, meet with coaches and work out. The chemistry in the building dialed up a lot with the presence of the players. It was a really fun day.
Behind the scenes, it's got to be a lot more frantic and more unknown. The discussion around quarterback Kevin Kolb has, according to media reports, intensified. Will he be traded? If he is traded, where will he go? What would the Eagles receive in compensation?
Otherwise, there hasn't been much chatter. There have been no "leaks" about which players the Eagles are contacting in free agency. There are no whispers about which draft picks might sign quickly. The Eagles inked nine rookie free agents, a group they are high on. I've talked to some people about those players and they are talented, they were good enough to be drafted and they have a lot of ground to catch up on.
There is still so much work to be done. Who, for example, punts this year? Sav Rocca is unsigned. Doesn't he need a work visa to play in this country? Does he have one now? Does it take time to acquire a work visa? The Eagles signed Ray Guy Award winner Chas Henry as a non-drafted rookie. Interesting. Very interesting. Can he hold, too?
So, yeah, the special teams are in flux after so much stability. I have a lot of faith in Bobby April and in the personnel crew to make sure this unit is up to speed. Right now, though, it is extremely young with rookies Alex Henery as the long placekicker here and Henry as the long punter here. Henery and Henry. Is this a wild time of the year or what?
1:29 p.m., July 26 A Lull Period
We are in a bit of a lull period around the NovaCare Complex. The players are doing whatever they are doing -- meeting with coaches, maybe taking physicals to get them out of the way, working in the weight room. I've seen a bunch of them around and they are all thrilled to be here. It's a great, team atmosphere. Lots of handshakes and high fives. Who has changed the most physically? Tough to say with the players in street clothes, but Clay Harbor looks ripped, Mike Kafka looks like he has gotten a lot stronger and Austin Howard appears streamlined. I would probably say that defensive tackle Mike Patterson looks very, very good. And LeSean McCoy looks very solid. Good stuff.
Behind the scenes, there are many things happening that I can only speculate about. The media sentiment is that the Eagles are fielding a lot of offers for quarterback Kevin Kolb, and that's probably true. Arizona and Seattle are the two teams you hear most associated with Kolb. Maybe there is some competition there. As I wrote early in the day, the Eagles clearly didn't have a deal done with a team and Kolb didn't have a deal done for a new contract with a team. So while some felt he would be traded at 10:01 a.m., now the feeling among the media is that it may not happen -- if it happens at all -- for at least another day.
Who knows? We're all speculating and throwing names around. Players throughout the league are being cut, and big-name players at that. Are the Eagles interested? They have, I can tell you, anticipated those moves and they have grades on every one of those players. There may be some reaching out in one or two cases.
I saw Howie Roseman briefly this morning and he was as he always is: Upbeat, confident, understanding that he has a lot of work to do. Every team in the league is in the same situation. The Eagles have planned for this for many months. The plan isn't going to unfold in one day, or even one week. Let's judge this team after we see how the roster looks heading into the regular season.
That said, I'm extremely ready for a big, big move. The waiting has certainly been the hardest part.
12:04 p.m., July 26 Thoughts On Post-Draft Signings
Some thoughts on the rookie free agents the Eagles signed, from what I've gained from conversations: Talented group, very good athletes, and pressed to make an impact without the benefit of the post-draft camps. Tight end Martell Webb is a physical marvel at 276 pounds. He was drafted as a West Coast tight end at Michigan and then the coaching staff changed. So Webb, a highly regarded basketball prospect, played in the spread offense with the Wolverines and caught all of 9 passes in his career at Michigan.
But he can run and he has the size. But can Webb learn the offense well enough to show his skills at training camp? That is the question for every non-drafted rookie signed to an NFL contract.
On a news note, Eagles Chief Operating Officer Don Smolenski announced at a Lehigh Valley luncheon that the team's first public practice is on Saturday at 8:05 a.m. at the Goodman Campus of Lehigh University. Training Camp, presented by Sports Authority, is going to be a wild, wild experience.
11:39 a.m., July 26 Vick Regals The Media (Again)
Another Michael Vick media session, and this time a horde of media surrounded Vick as he leaned against an outside wall. Vick said all the right things, and when he was asked about DeSean Jackson he said, "DeSean has some things he has to think about," so I know there is going to be a lot of speculation about Jackson and whether he holds out of training camp and pursues a new contract. Expect that to be a story that the media chase doggedly today and tomorrow.
As for Vick, he is the first player to admit that he wants two-a-day pratices.
"We ned to be out there grinding," he said. "I like that."
Mostly, Vick was Vick: approachable, honest, open to the media. He is a joy to work with.
11:14 a.m., July 26 Coleman Wants To Make An Impact
Is second-year man Kurt Coleman destined to be a starter this season? He says he is ready to go, no matter what the role the coaches have in mind for him.
"I left here and watched all of my plays last year. I think I did OK, but there is a lot of room for improvement," said Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick last season. "I'm looking forward to learning the defense and becoming a leader in the secondary. I learned a lot last year working with Q (Quintin Mikell). With free agency, I don't know what is going to happen with him and with his situation.
"I'm in great shape and I'm ready to compete. Not having two-a-day practices is going to be unusual. That would be the first time in my career ever that we wouldn't have two practices a day. But that's the way it is in the NFL now. We're all learning together."
10:57 a.m., July 26 Welcome, Michael Vick!
Michael Vick is here, and everyone is happy to see him. He spoke to the media upon his arrival and, while he didn't break any news, he did express a lot of excitement about being here.
"We're going to make up for lost time. That's what we're here to do with our coaches," said Vick. "We're just ready to play some football and compete. Every day is going to be important just like any day in training camp, as much as we can absorb and consume on a daily basis. That's pretty much how our team is going to go.
"I'm excited to be walking into the building. That's pretty much what we've been waiting for for the last four months."
Vick called his contract situation "a backburner issue." He said he is here to "take care of what I've been put on this earth to do, and that's play great football. I'm excited about what we're doing this year."
10:28 a.m., July 26 Players Arrive At 10 a.m. Sharp
It's quite a zoo out in front of the NovaCare Complex. There are dozens of media members who just descended upon the Complex as the players arrived. So much fun! And the players are here. LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek, Trevor Laws and Victor Abiamiri are some of the veterans who are here. Center A.Q. Shipley, who I think has a shot here to blossom, is in as well. I would guess maybe 12-15 players are here so far.
The team just announced the signing of nine rookie non-drafted players. Three of them are wide receivers, one is a quarterback, one is a punter, one is a tight end, one is a running back, one is a linebacker and one is a defensive tackle. I don't know enough about them to give you a scouting report. The punter, Chas Henry from Florida, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter as he averaged 45.1 yards per punt last season on the way to earning first-team All-American honors. Interesting. There is a legitimate young prospect here punting. Combine that with rookie draft pick Alex Henery ... oh, the mind wanders. Is Sav Rocca coming back?
10:10 a.m., July 26 Clay Harbor Bigger, Stronger
The first wave of players that I saw enter the NovaCare Complex, at exactly 10 a.m., included quarterback Mike Kafka, running back Eldra Buckley and tight end Clay Harbor. I spoke with Harbor, who looks terrific. He added 10 pounds and is up to about 256 pounds. He looks ripped.
And he sounds ready.
"I worked a lot with Mike (Kafka) on the little things that I know this offense demands," said Harbor. "It's exciting to be back. I think I'm a better player. I know how the NFL works. I know the offense. I am really excited to get back out there and work.
"The way this ended, it happened so fast. We're here all of a sudden after wondering when the lockout would end. That's life in the NFL. Fast and faster."
8:54 a.m., July 26 Will The Eagles Trade Kevin Kolb?
Here is the topic of the day: Will the Eagles make a trade? Specifically, will the Eagles trade quarterback Kevin Kolb? I don't know the answer. Opinions are split. I think that if the Eagles have an interest in trading Kolb and that if they work out trade specs with a team very quickly, there is still the matter of Kolb working on a contract extension with his new team. That is how these kinds of things work.
Kolb is a tremendous asset who is in demand. The young man has a chance to be a very fine quarterback in this league. He has shown glimpses of it already. Will the Eagles deal him? And if they do, who is the backup quarterback here? I have to believe the Eagles would sign a veteran rather than promote second-year man Mike Kafka to the role of the No. 2 quarterback. Nothing against Kafka, who has a chance to be productive in this league, but he hasn't had any real-game experience in the NFL.
Anyone who thinks they have a handle on what the Eagles are going to do in the next week really don't. It's impossible to know. The Eagles have put together numerous scenarios -- models, they are called in the business -- and they have to evaluate on a daily basis which scenario is about to come true. Nothing is going to go 100 percent according to plan. Even in 2004, when the team signed Jevon Kearse and Dhani Jones and traded for Terrell Owens, other hoped-for actions did not work out. I don't remember the name, but the Eagles were looking at a cornerback hard that year to sign and he signed elsewhere.
We are looking ahead with great anticipation. No question about it. This is going to be a great, great six weeks leading into the regular season. So much going on here, my head is spinning.
I'm off to a department head meeting now. I will be back shortly. At 10 a.m., I expect players to show up. Who will be the first player to arrive at the NovaCare Complex?
8:33 a.m., July 26 Good Morning. Welcome To A Looong Day
My first stop in the morning is in the cafeteria, of course, where I load up on eggs (scrambled), bacon, a bunch of fruit and a dang tasty Snapple Lemon iced tea. There may be no better drink in the world. Sitting in the cafeteria is the man NFL fans can't escape (and I mean that in a good way): Albert Breer from the NFL Network.
"Morning, Albert. Dave Spadaro from the web site. How are you doing?"
"Good, Dave. How are things?"
"Albert, you look like a hundred bucks ..."
He laughs. Why not? The guy did a bang-up job covering the labor negotiations for NFL Network and he made a name for himself. He showed incredible durability and a great knack for getting the stories. Good guy, too.
Anyway, on to football. The Eagles are going to announce a bunch of signings of non-drafted rookies today. From what I know, there are some physical specimans among the bunch. Reports say the team signed University of Miami running back Graig Cooper, Michigan tight Martell Webb -- a 270-pounder, who is a beast, I hear -- and Indiana Terrance Turner, who has a big body and a shot.
The reality is that players are going to slip through the cracks. It's unavoidable. With 90 players on the training camp roster and limited reps coming in training camp, teams are going to miss on players.
This is an excellent test for personnel teams around the league.