It was a good sign for the Eagles' middle linebacker, a player on whom the team is counting so much.
As the team's offseason workouts end and the players have five-plus weeks to get breathers and take care of their business and live a little bit before training camp begins at Lehigh University, DeMeco Ryans works his way through another day. He has fit in so well, so quickly, and is pleased at the smooth transition he has enjoyed since the Eagles acquired him in a trade with Houston way back in March.
"It's going really well. I'm so pleased with everything," he said. "The guys welcomed me from the very first day and that made me feel good. I remember the first day on the field, thinking about how much I needed to learn. It's come to me quickly. I guess I couldn't be happier with the way it's gone, and with how comfortable I feel as an Eagle."
Ryans has, throughout all of these practices in the spring, lived up to expectations. He has run very well, has shown great instincts and has been around the football a lot. The coaching staff couldn't be more pleased with how well Ryans has struck an accord with the scheme, how he has learned the language of Juan Castillo's system and with the tempo of the work day.
If there is anything that has taken time to adjust to, it's the daily questions he's faced about being a leader. The easy part is being a leader, because that has always come naturally to Ryans. But being asked about it and having to talk about it is something has taken some adjustment.
"I hear it every day and it's like, how do you answer that question? I've never had to answer the question about being a leader," he said. "Being a leader, it just happens over time. I can't sit here and say this team needed a leader. I see the guys here working together, building something. Is it a void? You can't tell that now. You find out about leadership when you're in a game situation.
"When you step out on the game field, you see how things work when it's crunch time, when it's time to go to war, per se. That's when you find out what everybody is all about."
Ryans wants the defense to be relentless, to play fast and to be physical. He likes what he has seen so far from a defense that is still, and this is very important to remember, playing in shorts.
Once the hitting begins, we'll learn a whole lot more.
In the meantime, the Eagles have a lot of confidence. Ryans made the playoffs for the first in his NFL career with the Texans last season, and so he knows when there is something special in the air. Call it mojo. Call it swagger. Call it confidence.
Ryans thinks the Eagles have it.
"I feel like we have great playmakers on offense and on defense, so there is no doubt that if we start the season fast and finish it strong, that we'll be fine," said Ryans, not exactly ready to go out on a limb. "We know that we have a long, long way to go, though."
In Houston, the Texans used the word "Dollar"' to describe a coverage. With the Eagles, that coverage could be called "Pack." Ryans has to make sure he associates the right words with the right systems to get it all down in his head. At the end of the day, though, football is football. Ryans is back in his element, the 4-3 defense. He is manning the middle. He feels great about being an Eagle.
"It's all gone so well, as well as I could have ever hoped," he said. "There is a lot of excitement here about the team. I feel it, too. We all do. We have to keep working hard and take it day by day. Nobody is getting ahead of where we are.
"As far as how I'm playing, things are coming together. I feel I'm playing fast. I love what we're doing defensively. Once we get the pads on, and get our timing down, it's going to be a lot of fun out there."