Despite playing for the rival Dallas Cowboys since 2003, 33-year-old punter Mat McBriar had no problem donning Eagles green when the opportunity came about.
"I'm just thrilled to have been given an opportunity," McBriar said. "Especially when I got called up last week to work out, I was just thrilled to actually show off my stuff. I really didn't think that anyone was going to be making a call any time soon. To hear from Philadelphia was wonderful and I'm still sort of pinching myself that I'm here."
McBriar signed with the Eagles on July 25, but could not suit up for three days because of a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. On top of that, McBriar had to obtain his work visa from Australia so he could not be on the field until Wednesday. It was only a week, but McBriar said "it felt like an eternity."
Unlike McBriar, special teams coordinator Bobby April was surprised that no other NFL team wanted to see what the two-time Pro Bowl punter could do.
"I have no idea," April said, a phrase which he repeated. "I have no idea how a guy like that can be sitting out there all the way up to Training Camp."
For April, the move to bring McBriar in was "a very logical decision."
"We were concerned about his injury, obviously," April said. "But when he cleared and we offered him to sign, it was a really good move for us to get a really quality guy.
"Any time you can upgrade, you're going to do it. That's just football. Any time a guy like that is sitting out, you've got to believe there's a chance of upgrading. Go for it."
April said that McBriar will "work with the ones," but he added that second-year punter Chas Henry will too.
McBriar estimated that his foot is feeling roughly 90 percent normal from a ganglion cyst that caused him to have drop foot. He said the problem arose back in October last season, but he played through it. Doctors didn't discover exactly what the issue was until the end of January.
"My foot is pretty comfortable now. I've got a little feeling now. They're two big steps," McBriar said. "I've just got to get back into the swing of kicking, which in the last month I've been kicking a little bit, but I need to obviously do a bit more practice to get ready for the season. Nerves take a little while to regenerate, but they do get back to their previous form. It's time-consuming, but you just have to be patient with it."
Henry, McBriar's roommate here at Lehigh, has no problem with upping the competition level with the addition of an all-star punter.
"It's the NFL. You're going to have competition everywhere," Henry said. "That's the name of the game. That's how it should be. It makes everyone better. That's fine, bring in everything. As long as I have a chance to compete for the job, I'm happy."
"(Chas) is terrific," McBriar said. "He had a solid rookie year. Competition brings out the best in everyone. I'm looking forward to seeing Chas improve and also myself getting better."
April said this is a roster battle that will be "fun to watch."
"Even though Chas is the incumbent, this is a guy who has punted really well," April said. "He's punted for a long time. He's had great seasons. It will be interesting because Chas is punting really well right now, and I think Mat will punt really well. … You're going to see some balls take off."
Henry won the Ray Guy Award in 2010, which is given to the best collegiate punter. McBriar has played in two Pro Bowls. Clearly both Henry and McBriar have the ability to punt the football with the best of them, so consistency becomes the primary focus.
"That was my thing that we talked about this offseason, making sure I'm more consistent when I come back," Henry said. "I feel like I've done a pretty good job of that this offseason. I'm working on it. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to come out here and show that to the coaches."
While Henry was able to train at his alma mater (University of Florida) this offseason, April acknowledged that McBriar may be "a little bit out of rhythm" after an offseason spent recovering from his injury.
"(McBriar) may struggle with consistency because he hasn't punted due to the injury," April said. "It may take him a little while to get the ball strike back. He's got to have some patience on that. We have to have some patience with him to realize he hasn't had a regular offseason; he hasn't done nearly what he needed to do to be hitting the ball as consistently as he normally would. But from me he's going to get that benefit of the doubt.
"(Henry) is competing. He's still competing," April said. "But the other guy's got an excellent chance. (McBriar's) not in here to push him; he's in here to beat him out."
And may the best man win.
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