He's not quite ready to suit up for a game just yet, but Monday was a big step forward for defensive tackle Mike Patterson. The longest-tenured Eagle has been on the Active/Non-Football Illness list since the start of the season, waiting for clearance to return to football activities following offseason brain surgery to repair the Arteriovenous Malformation that caused his seizure during Training Camp in 2011. Last Friday, Patterson got word from head coach Andy Reid, referred to by Patterson affectionately as "the big man,", that he had been cleared to return to practice.
On Monday, Patterson joined his teammates on the practice field as a participant for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. The Eagles now have three weeks to decide whether to activate Patterson onto the 53-man roster, but, for now, the defensive tackle is just trying to get back into football shape.
"They're just going to take it slow," Patterson said. "We're going to see how things work out. The big man, he's just not in a rush to get me out there and risk anything. So, [they're] just kind of looking at me. I'm just happy to be out there running around.
"It felt real good. It was a change of pace too, not having to watch practice through the window. It's always good going out there with the fellas. I'm just excited, excited to go out there, put a helmet on and see this part of the season."
As a member of the scout team during practice, Patterson worked against the first-team offense, leading offensive lineman Evan Mathis to describe Patterson as "strong" and "fresh." Still, Patterson thinks it will take some time to get back into game shape. But when he's ready, the 2005 first-round pick who has started 99 games for the Eagles during his career expects to make a big impact.
"Most definitely," Patterson said. "I never counted myself out. I always feel like I always bring something to the table, so it's just a matter of time now. I just have to be patient, continue to work and get the most I can in practice and get ready for when they call me up."
For now though, the focus is less on Patterson's potential on-field impact than it is on the return of a beloved teammate who was facing an uncertain future.
"It's a blessing," said safety Kurt Coleman. "For him to come back from what he did and be able to come back and just be a part of this team, it's a blessing. He's an impact player too. He's great for the run stop. He knows how to position himself and cover a lot of gaps down there. It's a great thing to have him back. We're excited. It's going to bring another person added to that D-line."
"The good thing is you have a lot of good teammates, coaching," said Patterson. "They respect you and they give you room and give you time. No one ever pressured me to do anything I didn't want to do. I'm sure it would have been different if the process was different. Since it was a lot easier on me, I was able to focus and able to relax and not have to worry about that."
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