It had been a long time, Evan Mathis admitted, and as much as he knew what to expect on Monday night as he played for the first time since the season-opening win against Jacksonville, it was something special to start at left guard against Carolina.
Mathis was injured in that opener and then went on Injured Reserve/Designated to Return for eight weeks. He missed seven games rehabbing his knee injury before he was able to step back on the field for the prime-time game against the Panthers.
An Eagles offensive line that started all 17 games in 2013 hasn't been together once this season, but the offense is making it work. And on Monday night, the Eagles went with Jason Peters at left tackle, Mathis at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Matt Tobin at right guard (in place of the injured Todd Herremans) and Lane Johnson at right tackle.
A 45-21 win had everyone feeling very, very good.
"It was great to be back," Mathis said. "I was waiting for this moment for a very long time. I've really missed it. You get a newfound feeling, kind of like an 'absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder' feeling. It's tough sitting on the sidelines."
Mathis was able to practice for three weeks before playing on Monday, so he had no problems getting back into game-shape and playing at the tempo the Eagles demand. His presence is an important one down the stretch as the Eagles have two Pro Bowl players on the left side of their line, a center in Kelce who is playing at that level, and a couple of young, talented players on the right side.
"We're going to get better and better the more we play together," Mathis said. "We go on the road next (in Green Bay) and that will be a real test. I'm looking forward to taking that next step."
The Eagles hosted the Carolina Panthers in a Monday Night Football matchup ...