You wouldn't blame Cornelius Ingram for being angry. You wouldn't blame him for being disillusioned. After all, Ingram was on the fast track to becoming a professional athlete.
Recruited to play quarterback at the University of Florida, Ingram, 6-4, 250, would end up converting to tight end as a sophomore. After a junior season in which he caught 34 passes for 508 yards and seven touchdowns, Ingram was on the first-round radar of NFL scouts.
That's not all. The former finalist for Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida also played some shooting guard and small forward for the Gators basketball team. But things turned for Ingram during the summer heading into his senior season when he tore his left ACL, sidelining him for the entirety of Florida's BCS National Championship season. Still, because of Ingram's athleticism, the Eagles selected Ingram in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
That summer, Ingram looked like he'd be a home run draft pick as an explosive pass catching tight end, especially helpful in the red zone. But his surgically repaired ACL gave way again at training camp and Ingram was placed on injured reserve, meaning he'd spend a second consecutive year without football. Last spring, Ingram returned to the football field, this time in competition with Clay Harbor, a 2010 fourth-round pick, for the backup tight end job. Ingram was faring well and running with the two's through the beginning of training camp before he was again hampered by injury, this time a Baker's cyst that kept him out of practice for a few days. He never fully seemed healthy and after not getting any real playing time during the preseason games, Ingram was released on the day of the final roster cutdown.
"I think any time you want to play and compete and you can't because of an injury, it's always frustrating," Ingram said. "I knew I was injured at the time and there wasn't a whole lot I could do. Coming into the season, going into training camp, I know I was one of those guys who had to show the coaches what I could do more than anybody because I had missed the previous season. I knew the preseason was very important for me and I wasn't able to go out and play full speed, not one game, or barely practice full speed. I knew it was very important, but at the end of the day, I understand it's a business and you have to stay healthy in this league."
But Ingram wasn't resentful. Rather than return to his home in Hawthorne, Florida, a town of about 3,000 people, the grounded son of two preachers preferred to get his work in among the anonymity in Philadelphia. Every day he would run, lift and hope for an opportunity.
Through it all, Ingram said he got plenty of support from his former teammates. Jason Avant would sent him encouraging Bible scriptures and Moise Fokou, his neighbor, would constantly check in on him with positive reinforcement. And because of his proximity to the team and his teammates, Ingram never stopped paying attention to what was happening with the Eagles.
"I've watched every game," he said. "I know what's going on. I watch the news here and I've been here the entire time. I didn't go home (once). So I've been here the entire time and I definitely know what's going on with the Eagles."
After working out for the Detroit Lions last week, Ingram's ten-week hiatus from football ended Wednesday when he got word that the Eagles were interested in bringing him back as a member of the team's practice squad. Ingram was excited, of course, not only for the opportunity, but because the time away from the football field has been good on his knee.
"I think the break that I had from when I was released actually gave me enough time to heal up," Ingram said. "I appreciate all the support and all the love that everybody's given me, but at the end of the day you want to be on the field."
Because Ingram is so well-liked by his teammates, shouts of "C.I.'s back" were heard in the locker room on his first day back at practice Thursday. On the field, Fokou said Ingram looked "like he was right back into shape, like he didn't miss a beat." Ingram acknowledged as much, calling it "the best I've felt in a long time."
But that's not enough. Ingram has shown flashes before. In order to impress, he has to do it consistently. And that's exactly why Ingram is so level-headed about the opportunity.
"I understand it's a business," he said. "There was never one time when I was released that I held a grudge against the Eagles because I know I have to stay healthy in this business and that's what I'm going to try to do. I know that's the most important thing right now."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 7:00 p.m., November 12