On a day when one veteran defender went down, another returned to action for the first time since last season.
Linebacker Omar Gaither participated in practice with the rest of what was almost a full roster - Todd Herremans sat out with a sore foot, Kurt Coleman is still waiting for his Ohio State class to graduate and Jamaal Jackson and Victor Abiamiri are still recovering from injuries. It was the first time Gaither suited up with his teammates since last season's game against the Oakland Raiders when Gaither suffered a season ending Lis Franc injury to his foot. Gaither participated in the linebacker position drills and defensive group install, but sat out the team drills.
"It felt great man. I couldn't stop talking, sweating, trying to do everything. It feels great to be back out here, I really missed it," Gaither said after practice. "I was running well and just trying to ease my way back into things. I figure by next week I might be full go."
"The best part about being back is just being able to kick it with the guys, get sweaty, wear your jersey, the little things like that; the things that you don't realize you're missing until you get back out here."
It's been an arduous rehab process for Gaither, who had been the man in the middle of the Eagles defense in place of Stewart Bradley before he went down. Gaither's injury set off a chain of events that included the trade for Will Witherspoon and somewhat of a revolving door at middle linebacker that included Jeremiah Trotter, Joe Mays, Akeem Jordan and Chris Gocong.
"It's been a long hard process," Gaither said. "A lot of hard work went into it and I just thank (head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder) and the trainers, (assistant athletic trainer) Chris Peduzzi and those guys did a great job with it and right now we're just rolling."
As for where Gaither fits in now, after the team imported weakside linebacker Ernie Sims and drafted linebacker Keenan Clayton and Jamar Chaney, Gaither said that, as always, he's willing to do whatever it takes to help out the team. In the past, he's started both in the middle and on the weak side, but he may now present the most value as insurance for Bradley. Gaither and Mays will likely battle for the backup spot at middle linebacker, and Gaither's versatility and experience certainly won't hurt.
"I don't know, inside and outside I guess," Gaither said when asked where he best fits in. "We'll see when everything gets started back up and I'm full-go as far as training camp with the pads, but right now I'm just trying to do it all as usual."
And for a defense with so many new faces, the return of a veteran leader like Gaither is certainly welcome.
"(I have) high expectations," Gaither said. "I think we're young, but we're fast, we're talented, we have some good veteran guys up front, so that's where it starts and that's the most important part. I think we have a good mixture, so, like I said, we're expecting nothing but the best for this defense."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:00 p.m., June 1