Steve Smith isn't on the practice field running routes and working his way into the Eagles offense, but he is closer and closer to making an impact. He knows it. He feels it.
His surgically repaired knee feels stronger every day. It isn't 100 percent, but Smith feels the progress, and he thinks -- however optimistically that may be -- that he can be on the field for the regular season's first game in St. Louis.
"I think that is a realistic timetable. That's what I'm hoping for," said Smith, signed last week as an unrestricted free agent. "I'm coming along. It feels like it's a little weaker than the other one, but it feels great when I'm running and cutting and stuff. I've had no setbacks. I feel really good so hopefully we can keep along with this pace."
Smith is on the Physically Unable to Perform list and will remain there until he practices. When that day is, exactly, nobody wants to venture a specific date. It seems much closer rather than a lot later, though, so in the meantime Smith has his head in the Eagles' playbook and is learning an offense that is substantially different than what he knows.
"It's a lot different. It's real exciting. They throw the ball a lot here with a lot of down-the-field throws. I'm used to shorter stuff and here, they go down the field. I like it a lot."
Smith thinks he will start the season on the 53-man roster. That remains to be seen. He has to get on the field and show the coaches that he is ready to practice on a day-to-day basis.
Smith also had to answer questions, again, about why he signed with the Eagles after four years with the rival Giants. "It was just business," said Smith, even though that answer won't quiet those who want more of an explanation.
The focus now is not on the Giants. It is on fitting in with the Eagles on and off the field.
"Everybody has been so nice. There are other free agents who are bigger names than me," he said. "That has made it much easier. It seems like (Michael) Vick is a great leader and everybody is working his butt off. That's all you can do. It's coming together here."