Julian Vandervelde feels your pain. For the first six weeks of the season, the former 2011 fifth-round pick, who was released because of a back injury prior to the season, was sitting on his couch, living and dying with his favorite team. He was an Eagles fan.
"I've been staying in Philadelphia, I've been rehabbing here, so I have had the chance to see every game, and it is so much harder being a fan than it is being a player," Vandervelde said Tuesday upon his return to the NovaCare Complex. "I feel like, when you're on the sideline, when you're on the field, no matter what's going on, you're cool, calm and collected. You trust in the game plan and the guys next to you – you get the feel and the sense that it's going to be alright. And when you're watching it on TV, I was going nuts! I'm running around my apartment, I'm throwing stuff, I'm freaking out. Guys are going down, I'm sending text messages to dudes like, 'No, brother, get up!' You can't affect anything, and when you can't affect anything it really does cause a bit of a panic in you. But at the same time, it was nice to be here, to be able to see the games, kind of live and die with the fans for a little bit there, and really get a sense of where the team's going and the progress. Really, the defense and the special teams have been so fun to watch."
Now that he's back in the building and part of the team, Vandervelde knows that despite his experience in the system, he has plenty of catching up to do.
"Lots and lots of film," Vandervelde said, when asked what his next step was. "You've got to get caught back up. Mentally it's more of a challenge than physically, at this point. You get a bye week, you've got a little time, a little strength, a little conditioning, get back into football shape. But the system is so fast, and with everything flying around and all the calls that you have to make, especially as a center, the mental side of it is really where you have to get checked back in first. So that's kind of what I've been doing the last couple of hours.
"I'll be in the building. Lot of strength, lot of conditioning, lot of mental exercises. We have all of the film from the last six games, I'll be breaking everything down, getting ready for Arizona, the next step. Going backwards is fine, but at this point it's time for me to start moving forwards with the season, and that means focusing on Arizona."
With Jason Kelce still on the shelf, Vandervelde will likely be the Eagles' top backup at center behind David Molk until Kelce returns. But does the balky back that forced his departure a few months ago remain an issue?
"It's essentially the same thing that [offensive lineman] Dennis Kelly went through last year," Vandervelde said. "It was a little scary. Having seen Dennis go through this and having seen how well he's come through it and how well he's playing now, I think that helped me a lot to mentally be not as terrified of it. But having the understanding, also, that really any injury can be career-ending, particularly if you don't treat it the right way, if you don't give it the respect and the time that it needs and that it deserves, you can really wind up doing more harm than good on the road back."
Healthy and ready to contribute, Vandervelde is happy that he gets to continue his career where it started, and where he belongs.
"I always hoped that I'd be back," he said. "This is where I feel at home, I know the system, I know the city. I feel very comfortable here. I know the players and the coaches. You always have that hope and that place in your heart that you really hope that is where you get to spend the rest of your career, and so for me to come back to Philadelphia is really kind of the ideal situation."