For the first time as a professional, Jason Kelce wasn't there. He wasn't there to protect Michael Vick. He wasn't there to block for LeSean McCoy. He wasn't even there to watch the defense from the sidelines. Instead, Kelce had to do the unthinkable -- he had to watch the Eagles play on television.
From his apartment in Old City, Kelce, out for the season with a knee injury, tuned in to watch his teammates on television for the very first time. It wasn't easy.
"It's not fun," said Kelce. "I think watching the game gives you a lot more respect for what the fans go through because when you're in the game, you have an active control over what happens every single play. You know what's going wrong, what the coaches are saying, you know how to fix things. When you're watching, you can't do anything. You are just so frustrated, 'What are you doing? Why are you doing this?' It's no fun at all. I don't even know why fans watch the games."
Kelce's last remark is in jest, but there's a real pain for the 24-year-old in being absent when the Eagles hit the field. A starter from day one of his rookie season, Kelce was in the middle of his 18th straight regular season game when Ravens safety Ed Reed came flying into Kelce's right knee, ending the center's season.
"It's tough, especially the first week," said Kelce. "Mentally, it was rough mainly because I've never, ever been sat down for a full season. In college, I missed one game and played all of last year. High school, I missed maybe two or three games my entire high school career. So I've never had an injury like this. It's heart-wrenching to know, especially when you're watching the game, how frustrating that is that you really can't control anything anymore."
As he watches, Kelce focuses, of course, on the offensive line. What did he think of the debut performance of his replacement, Dallas Reynolds?
"Honestly, I thought he did a good job, especially for the position he was put in," Kelce said. "It looked like he was doing a good job trying to communicate. That's a tough place to communicate. Arizona, inside a dome like that, and those fans were going nuts, especially with the way both of those teams have been playing. Were there a couple mistakes? Yeah, but ... I think he played well and I think that the mistakes that were made were very correctable mistakes and I don't think that his mistakes were what led to the outcome of the game."
After spending three years on the Eagles practice squad, Reynolds now has one game as a starter under his belt. Kelce has been helping Reynolds transition into that role, but he's also careful not to take too much away from the new center.
"I'm trying to be as involved as I can," said Kelce, "I don't want to be too involved in front of guys because to some extent I don't want to be seen anymore as the starting center, I think that's Dallas' job now, especially for the rest of this year. So I'm trying to let him control everything. But I'll go to Dallas and get with him one-on-one. Like after the game, we talked about certain things that were done and maybe things that he can improve upon or things that he thought could have gone a different way. I'm more individually involved with him and kind of involved with the coaches than I am involved with the entire team."
As for next year, Kelce is tentatively scheduled to have surgery on his knee October 18th. If all goes according to plan, he should be fully ready for the start of the 2012 season.
"Even though I won't be doing contact in minicamps, hopefully I'll even be back for minicamps is what they're trying to do," he said. "It's unfortunate that I'm going to miss this season, but it's good that I'll be expected to be fully ready to go by the time next season starts."
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