That noise you heard at about 2:30 Thursday afternoon? That was the collective sigh of relief coming from Lehigh University.
Why? Rookie defensive end Bryan Smith practiced for the first time in training camp, providing the Eagles an extra body for camp, but, more imperatively, a young project at an all-of-a-sudden position of need.
Smith had missed the first week-and-a-half with a hamstring strain, and he had been taking his time to ensure he was 100 percent healthy before subjecting himself to head coach Andy Reid's notoriously tough camp.
But with Victor Abiamiri succumbing to a wrist injury that required surgery, Smith felt the pressure to get onto the field – to prove coaches that he could be a worthwhile addition to the 53-man roster. The dilemma, he said, was trying not to give in to that pressure to rush his recovery.
"(I gave in) somewhat, but not really, because you don't want to rush a hamstring injury," Smith said. "You really don't want to rush it because you can make it worse. So it's important (to get) the right treatments and continuing doing what you're doing to get it right."
It's not like Smith wasn't dying to get out here. The third-round pick patrolled empty practice fields with conditioning coaches, carrying medicine balls and always looking over his shoulder at the action adjacent to him. He watched as his fellow draft pick, Trevor Laws, shook free of the Physically Unable to Perform list and dove into the trenches. He couldn't step in to take reps when Abiamiri got hurt or Chris Clemons was hospitalized with a case of dehydration.
On Thursday, he had that spark in his eye, a cocked smile of confidence. He was finally ready for action.
"With the guys that have been rehabbing and stuff, we've been doing real good workouts," Smith said. "I'm looking real forward to hitting and getting back in pads. Make some tackles, make some plays, and do what I do."
That's not to say his transition to live action will be fluid, however. Some considered drafting him high a reach – he was small for his position, and, being from McNeese State, hadn't faced elite competition. He'd need this camp. And he'd never had a hamstring problem before – his No. 1 asset, his speed, had been muzzled.
But he worked his way up to 245 pounds, the playing weight coaches desired from him. He'd participated in all the post-draft workouts. He'd done all that was asked; he just hit a snag.
So, without taking reps, Smith became extra studious to make sure he wouldn't feel lost on the field. Don't suggest that he's behind on his playbook – he'll snap right back.
"I'm caught up. I go to meetings, I'm just not practicing with (the team)," he said. "I still go to meetings, I'm in the playbook with them, I (study) the playbook on my own, on my spare time."
He knows his major test will come Friday when the pads go back on. His action will come against offensive tackles fighting for a job, just like him.
But he's ready.
"It's just all a mindset. Once you set your mind to it, you can do it," Smith said. "I've been setting my mind to going back out there and concentrating on football."