After starting 16 games for the Carolina Panthers last season, Derek Landri, 28, found himself in an interesting place when the 2011 season began - home. After a productive collegiate career at Notre Dame and a workmanlike first four seasons in the NFL, Landri, for the first time in a long time, wasn't playing football.
"I mean, I've been doing this since high school," Landri said, "every season this is the time of year you go to to work. So to sit back and watch my buddies play, it was good to see them play, but to not be a part of that, it eats at you and frustrates you."
Of course, Landri spent the preseason with the Eagles, notching 2.0 sacks in the preseason and showing an impressive motor and nose for the action. Despite that showing, however, Landri, one member of a very deep group of defensive linemen, was released as part of the final roster cutdown, though the team was complimentary to the veteran.
"If something happens we'll call you," was the message conveyed to Landri. "I guess you wait for it and don't know whether it will be true or not. It's one of those things where you like the guys on the team, it's a great organization and so you hope that's what happens."
So Landri worked out for a couple other teams around the league, did some work on some rental properties he owns in Indiana and visited his wife's family in Buffalo. Then, last Sunday, Antonio Dixon suffered a torn triceps that will sideline him for the remainder of the season and all of a sudden the Eagles were in need of a defensive tackle. Landri was their guy.
By Monday afternoon, Landri knew he was coming back to Philadelphia, just in time for a return trip to Buffalo. Landri had been keeping close tabs on the Eagles through the first four weeks of the season, saying he "watched every game." Now, he'll be counted on to help turn the team's fortunes around.
"He's got a lot of experience playing and he's a pretty smart player on the field, he feels stuff out pretty well," said position-mate Cullen Jenkins. "He's got a heck of a knack for pass rushing and I just think he can step in here and be able to help us out."
Head coach Andy Reid compared Landri to former Eagle Paul Grasmanis, who played five seasons with the Eagles as a rotational defensive tackle.
"I'd tell you he's a tough guy," Reid said of Landri. "Nothing looks real pretty, but (Grasmanis) didn't really care, he just makes plays. That's what (Landri) did for us in the preseason and what he's done in his career. He's a tough guy that has a high motor."
Landri expects to make his Eagles debut this Saturday, where there will be plenty of family and friends in attendance. The only question is which team they'll be rooting for.
"They'll be pulling for me I hope," Landri said. "At least they're not going to tell me (if they're rooting for the Bills)."