After spending most of Training Camp and all of the preseason and joint practices on the sidelines recovering from thumb surgery, new Eagles defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is ready to go in the regular-season opener at Atlanta.
Following a stellar 10-year career with Washington, Kerrigan is excited to make his Eagles debut.
"I'm feeling good now. It was definitely frustrating missing as much time as I did. Definitely not ideal at any point, let alone the start of Training Camp, but I'm feeling good now," Kerrigan said. "Feeling confident, which I think is the biggest thing when you're coming back from an injury, gaining confidence in using whatever was injured. So, feeling good."
One of the premier pass rushers in the NFL since he joined Washington in 2011 – Kerrigan made four Pro Bowls and notched 95.5 quarterback sacks in 10 seasons there – the veteran will play his role in Jonathan Gannon's defense. What that role entails isn't yet exactly clear, and that's what Sunday is for all of us to see. What is most important is that Kerrigan has been working diligently on the side with his conditioning and his understanding of the scheme, and he expects no speed bumps when he's summoned to the playing field.
Kerrigan will wear what he called a "protective device" on his right thumb on Sunday and he's been pleased with the way he has been able to use his hand throughout the week of practice. He's pleased with how "functional" he has been able to perform on the field. At home? Tying shoes, opening a bottle of water or a jar, well, that's now a chore.
Kerrigan said he will wear the protection on the thumb for Sunday and the near future. He isn't sure about how long he will wear the protection.
"I've actually been pleasantly surprised. When I initially had surgery and injured it, I was very concerned about, 'How am I going to be able to strike? How am I going to be able to grab without my thumb?' But I've been pleasantly surprised at how well I've been able to do those things in practice this week," Kerrigan said. "The training staff made up a nice little protective device, so I'm feeling good. I'm feeling confident."
The Eagles have promising depth at defensive end, with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, and rookie Milton Williams integrated into the rotation through the summer. Kerrigan, one of the most intense players in the league, will bolster that group against an Atlanta offense that features explosive weapons at the skill positions and a young and highly regarded offensive line in front of veteran quarterback Matt Ryan.
It's the opener and, for the first time in his career, Kerrigan will be in a different uniform than the team that drafted him. He says the assimilation into the Eagles' locker room, culture, and defense has been smooth.
"It's been cool. You're in one place for so long and to come somewhere else – I didn't have to come too far. Only a couple of hours up 95 – it's been really awesome. It's been a cool experience," Kerrigan said. "There are great people in this building, people that I enjoy coming to work with every day. I'm excited to see us in game action because it's a fun group to be around both in the locker room and the personnel staff. It's been a fun experience so far in Philadelphia."