Fullback Stanley Havili became the first member of the 2011 Eagles' draft class to take part in any sort of mini-camp practice or Organized Team Activity on Saturday.
Havili, as well as the other 253 draft picks around the league a year ago, did not get the benefit of any work in the spring with his new team because of the lockout. All rookies were thrown into the fire at the start of training camp and expected to sink or swim with the veteran players. With labor peace, this year's rookies not only get the benefit of the full complement of spring practices, but they also get a camp devoted just for them.
In past years, the "rookie camp" could include selected veterans such as those were coming off an injury. Some veterans volunteered for the extra work. However, the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it so that no player on the roster with an accrued year of experience can take part. The exception is veterans who are competing on a tryout basis and are not under contract.
Havili, a seventh-round pick out of USC, spent his entire rookie campaign on the Eagles practice squad. He's bulked up adding 10 pounds of muscle, and now weighs in at around 248 pounds. Even though Andy Reid's practices are not new to him, Havili admitted to feeling like a rookie on his first day Saturday.
"I know the offense, but I still had jitters in the meeting room getting ready to come out here," Havili said. "I think I'm just like every other rookie.
"I really take this as an advantage right now to get some extra looks. (Running backs coach) Ted (Williams) does a good job in the classroom and out here of getting us our reps and critiquing us."
With the 45 players taking part in this rookie camp, the Eagles added tryout defensive tackle Alex Magee on Saturday to the previously listed number of 44, Havili also has the unique opportunity to be one of the few players to not only emerge come September with a spot on the final roster but also a peg in the starting lineup. Owen Schmitt was not re-signed after his contract expired following the 2011 season. Havili comes into the spring camps at the top of the depth chart battling rookie free agents Emi Igwenagu and Jeremy Stewart.
"I'm just ready to compete. I think my biggest mindset coming in to come in and show them that I can actually block," Havili said. "I'm just ready to come out and show them what I can do and how I can excel in this offense."
The fullback position has been an odd one for the Eagles, and around the league, in recent years. In 2009, Leonard Weaver earned All-Pro honors at the fullback position by essentially being the backup running back. After Weaver's devastating knee injury in 2010, Schmitt was signed and in his two seasons had a total of 26 touches. According to Pro Football Focus, Schmitt played fewer than 200 of the team's nearly 1,100 snaps last season. Could the Eagles possibly add a player at another position and not go with a fullback?
"I feel like there's a spot for a fullback on this team," said Havili, who accumulated 1,799 scrimmage yards at USC. "This offense, where it comes from, they like to utilize the fullback in a lot of different ways."
Havili spent last year learning the rigors of the NFL. Now, Havili gets a head start on the field as he looks to make sure that the Eagles not only keep a fullback on the roster, but that it's him.
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