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Stories In Every Corner Of Locker Room

Each player took his own path to get to this point and each has his own story to tell. With the Eagles in full mandatory minicamp mode, the locker room is alive with hope and optimism and energy and, yes, a lot of different stories to hear.

There are 90 players on the roster now, a number that will narrow to 53 in time for the regular season opener against Cleveland. That seems a far ways away as the players focus in on their responsibilities for this camp.

RUEBEN RANDLE, wide receiver

It's a new start and Rueben Randle plans to take full advantage. His foray into free agency didn't go as planned after catching eight touchdown passes for the New York Giants last season. There were no long-term offers that were satisfactory. There was no set-for-life contract. Randle signed a one-year contract with the Eagles and he's here to make the most of it.

Somehow, he turned gallbladder surgery into a brief inconvenience – Randle was back on the field on Tuesday catching passes after missing just two weeks of the Organized Team Activities following the procedure – and Randle has some major momentum as the spring practices near their end.

He is nothing but positive now and aiming to turn around the perception, real or not, that he's lackadaisical and not as attentive as he needs to be. Those are some of the labels Randle heard during his four seasons as a Giant, years that were fairly productive with 188 receptions and 20 touchdowns, but not nearly as dominating as New York expected from a big receiver with good speed and big hands and the ability to give more.

"Everything has been great here, with the exception of the gallbladder," Randle said. "I like the locker room and the coaches and I'm picking up the offense. I know I have a chance here. I know what's at stake. I didn't get the deal I thought I would get in free agency, so here I am. I have a lot to prove."

Head coach Doug Pederson called Randle a "pleasant surprise" on Tuesday and, the truth is, Randle may be the team's most talented wide receiver. Position coach Greg Lewis has the task of helping Randle realize his ceiling and that means it starts with making every meeting on time, taking copious notes, running precise routes, being on the same page with the quarterback on checks and catching everything thrown his way.

"That's the goal, to play my best football and I think I'm off to a good start," Randle said. "I've got a lot of confidence in what I'm doing. I want to go out and have another good day."

AARON GRYMES, cornerback

The NFL didn't want him as Aaron Grymes left Idaho and embarked on a quest to play professional football. What do you do when the big time doesn't call? You go where you are wanted, and in the case of Grymes, that turned out to be the Canadian Football League and the Edmonton Eskimos. Grymes played there for three seasons and did his job helping the Eskimos win a Grey Cup.

The CFL ain't the NFL, and the talent level isn't as deep. But the field is wider and longer and the receivers get a running start, so Grymes improved his fast-twitch skills and coverage abilities enough to get a phone call and an invitation to work out with the Eagles in February.

And that's when the nerves started to jump.

"I've always dreamed of playing in the NFL and, you know, you get that call and it's time to perform. I felt it going in to the workout, but obviously I did well enough to get signed and have a chance to make this team," Grymes said. "It was relieving, but it was stressful at the same time. The Eagles told my agent that if they liked the workout they were going to sign me, so you ask yourself the questions. 'Am I good enough to play in the NFL? What will they think? Am I ready to have my best workout?' That's kind of what was going through my mind. But, hey, I'm here."

Grymes has been around the football quite a lot in the spring and he's earned plenty of reps. It is going to be a new challenge when the pads go on, of course, but Grymes is keeping everything positive at a position that is both wide open and congested at the same time.

"I'm loving this. Every day I come to work and know that I need to prove myself. The competition level is really high here. Up there, those No. 1 receivers are nice, really nice. But then there is a drop off as you go down the roster," Grymes said. "Here, the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers can burn you. They can embarrass you. You have to be ready for every snap. It's a great challenge. I am loving this."

KENJON BARNER, running back

Maybe 28 carries and 124 yards don't sound like a lot over the course of a 16-game schedule, but for Kenjon Barner, handling the football that much during the 2015 regular season was a huge boost. After a rookie season in Carolina during which he carried six times for 7 yards and then a 2014 campaign spent mostly rehabbing from an injury before Philadelphia signed him to the practice squad, Barner's 2015 was a breakthrough.

"That meant a lot to me. To do in the regular season was significant. I'm appreciative of where I've been, what I've gone through," Barner said. "I've never lost my confidence. But going through those first couple of years, it makes you think. Last year was a great confidence booster."

Barner is ripped, shredded, in the kind of shape that leads to big seasons. He changed his diet, he changed his life habits, he trained in different ways, he took yoga – "Everything I could possibly do to get better, I did," he said.

"I wanted to be the best player I could possibly be, and I've done everything I can think of to do that," Barner said. "I'm working on every part of my game. My footwork, my hands, my blocking, my leverage. Everything. I'm stronger, I'm in better shape and I'm getting good feedback. I think I've run well and I think I'm catching well, but I know it's going to be a different ballgame when the pads go on. I can't wait to get it started."

TREY BURTON, tight end

This spring has been a lot like his college days. Trey Burton was Mr. Everything at the University of Florida, playing tight end, wide receiver, running back and quarterback and basically serving as the team's offense.

Now Burton is in an offense where the tight ends are moving all around the formation, and the coaching staff wants to take advantage of Burton's versatility. He's been in line as a tight end. He's been out wide as a receiver, has been in the backfield. Burton has been in three-tight end sets.

Boy, is this fun.

"I like this offense a lot. You see how much we're using the tight end," Burton said. "We're all pretty eager to see how this turns out. The coaches want to use us as much as they can and that's fine with me. I know I have to earn my role."

Burton is one of Dave Fipp's core special teams players and he certainly has a role on the team. But he could be in for a more expansive list of chores if the spring is any indication.

"We've seen this scheme work with the Eagles before and in Kansas City. Frank (Reich, offensive coordinator) had a lot of success in San Diego so when you mix all of that here, yeah, it's great. It's exciting," Burton said. "I'm going to do whatever the coaches want me to do. That's cool with me."

The good news for Burton is that he can do a lot of things. And the Eagles are taking advantage.

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