Before Sunday's win over the Ravens, the last time center Dallas Reynolds played on offense for a winning team in a game that counted in the standings was the same weekend of the Eagles' tie with the Cincinnati Bengals. Yes, that game back in 2008.
After three years of toiling on the Eagles' practice squad, Reynolds made the final 53-man roster out of Training Camp for the first time in 2012. On Sunday, Reynolds will make his first career start with Jason Kelce sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.
"I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time," Reynolds said. "A few years on practice squad and now to be active and have a chance to start, I'm excited for the opportunity."
Reynolds was forced into action in the third quarter against the Ravens. Two plays after Reynolds was inserted, quarterback Michael Vick threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to cut the Ravens' lead to 17-14. In all, the Eagles scored 17 points with Reynolds on the field including the seven that came on the 10-play, 80-yard drive to win the game in the fourth quarter.
"I felt like I did pretty well. I didn't have time to think about it. It was just time to go in and let your preparation and hard work pay off," Reynolds said.
Head coach Andy Reid thought that Reynolds played well enough to earn the starting job while the team decides what to do with Kelce, who has a partially torn ACL and a fully torn MCL. There is still a chance Kelce could return in 2012, but this Sunday there is no question that Reynolds is the man at center when the Eagles travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. The game will take place just 600 miles south of where he played college football at BYU, which is where he earned All-Mountain West Conference honors as a center in 2008.
"The preparation, all of that stuff, will be the same. You've got to prepare. You've got to watch film. You've got to do what you can do in the meeting room," said the 6-4 Reynolds, who is 20 pounds heavier than Kelce. "I think what's going to change is on the field. I'm obviously going to take more reps with the starting group and then just that take on into Sunday."
The Eagles are unfortunately somewhat used to changing centers due to injury. In 2001, Hank Fraley took over for Bubba Miller, who broke his leg in the final preseason game, and helped the Eagles win the division title and earn a trip to the NFC title game. In 2005, Fraley injured his shoulder midseason and Jamaal Jackson took over the starting job. Jackson suffered an ACL tear of his own in 2009 just before the playoffs and incurred a torn triceps muscle in the 2010 season opener.
After the game Sunday, Kelce said that he thought Reynolds played well considering the circumstances. Kelce did not know the severity of the injury at the time, but knew this would likely be an opportunity for Reynolds to "prove himself."
"I feel bad what happened with him and the situation is what it is, but he's a great player," Reynolds said. "He's a great competitor and he's someone that is always willing to help others. He's always been a big help to me in trying to improve and make the calls."
Reynolds had one brief stint on the active roster in 2009, his first year on the practice squad, but he never played in a game. With his practice squad eligibility exhausted, this was Reynolds' last chance to make the final roster. Against Cleveland, Reynolds made his NFL debut on special teams. On Sunday, he took part in his first offensive series. And this Sunday, Reynolds will start. Never in his three years on the practice squad did Reynolds lose sight of his goal of becoming an NFL player.
"I think it's just working hard and not being content, every year trying to improve and trying to get better," Reynolds said. "It's tough, but then you use that as motivation for the offseason. You take that into the weight room. You take that into the meeting rooms. Just try to improve and improve."
Reynolds had the unenviable task of battling the Ravens and their stout defensive line with very little preparation. The week of preparation will be key for Reynolds as he will engage with a good Cardinals defensive line that helped spark an amazing upset of the Patriots on the road.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider