As L.J. Smith watched Sunday's loss in Chicago, he felt the same agony as everyone: He wished he could be out there "with my teammates, my friends." But the reality was that Smith had to look at a loss that should have been a win and, well, it was tough for him to digest. A season that Smith entered so eagerly was, at that moment, disrupted by his time on the sidelines.
"I clicked it on and clicked it off in the first half. It was tough to watch," he said. "It's a strange feeling when you are part of the team and expected to be on the field, and instead you are watching on TV. The second half, man, I thought we were going to win the game. I am just glad to be back, looking forward to playing on Sunday."
Smith is back in the lineup. He has gone through practice this week, and his name should soon be scratched off the list of the Eagles' walking wounded. How much of a boost is it to have Smith back? Say what you will about him, about his numbers -- and understand, Smith has been around long enough to know what everybody is saying -- but the truth is that the offense is better with Smith on the field.
He is the most athletic tight end the Eagles have, he is the best blocker and he gives Donovan McNabb the best target in the red zone.
And he is back, so we wonder just how much of a different Smith can make against Washington.
"You know, I'm ready to go out and play. I'm excited to get back on the field," said Smith. "We have a great team here. I think the guys just didn't get it done last week. You have to give the Bears credit. At the same time, we're all hurting about that game. We felt lilke it shouldn't have gone that way, so we have to go out on Sunday and play our best football."
Smith was a weapon in the opening game against the Rams, catching 5 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. He had one catch for 10 yards in Dallas -- Smith had a couple of more throws come his way, but the completions were not there -- and then suffered a lower back injury in the Pittsburgh game.
So he watched as the Eagles played in Chicago, and agonized. Smith signed a the team's offer to be a franchise player prior to free agency, and is looking for big things to come in the 12 preseason games ahead.
"Yeah, you know the West Coast offense is a tight-end friendly offense and I like it," he said. "As for my numbers, and how people judge me based on the numbers, you have to understand where I am in the pecking order. We spead things around here. You go and look at another team and see how they use the tight end. It's different everywhere you go. I'm asked to do a lot of things, so I'm looking forward to that.
"We need a win. Washington is playing great football. We have to play our best game against that defense."
OK, the Eagles are looking forward to having Smith back on the field. Brian Westbrook remains a big, giant question mark after having limited participation in practice on Thursday. Shawn Andrews is not back on the practice field. The Eagles need to finish drives on Sunday against a Redskins defense that slowed the potent Dallas offense last week.
Will the Eagles throw to Smith against Washington? Is he going to help the red-zone offense turn green? How will the Eagles respond to such a critical game?
At least Smith isn't going to be in his living room, watching TV with his girlfriend. He is back in uniform, hoping to make a difference.
"Big game. It's the NFC East, so we know it is going to be a physical game and a great atmosphere," said Smith. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'll be ready to go. Nobody wants to miss a game. This is what you work for all season. Sunday is the show for all of us."