The preseason came and went without Shawn Andrews or L.J. Smith ever playing a snap.

Now, starting with Sunday's season opener in Green Bay, the games begin to count for the Eagles. The question is: Can the Eagles count on Andrews and Smith to take part in these games?

The answer yesterday seemed to be yes and maybe.

Andrews, the Eagles' Pro Bowl guard who suffered a severe right-ankle sprain at the beginning of training camp, returned to practice for the first time in a month and was openly optimistic that he'd be able to play against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Smith, on the other hand, was cautious about whether he would be able to resume his role as the starting tight end in the season opener.

"Today went great," Andrews said. "Today was awesome. It felt good being back on the turf and being with the [first team]."

Those words didn't sound anything like what Andrews said last month, when he was asked if he'd be able to play in the season opener. Back then, he said, "I don't know what to think." At the time, he was in a walking boot.

Now he's ready for the Packers.

"I'm excited about Sunday," Andrews said. "I don't know if Coach [Andy] Reid allows me to give any percentages, but I'll say I'm excited about where I'm at."

Reid has said all along that he believed Andrews would be ready for the opener.

"I love his optimism," Andrews said. "I knew I was going to [be ready]. I just kind of wanted to get you guys all riled up because I knew what kind of flare it would put up."

Smith, who has been nursing a strained groin since Aug. 9 after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia May 31, also practiced yesterday. He said he could not be sure he'd be able to play Sunday until he completed the week of practice.

The Eagles' initial injury report of the season is due out tomorrow. Reid was unavailable for comment yesterday.

"I'm about 75 percent right now," Smith said. ". . . The problem is durability. It's a muscle. The groin is the biggest part of your leg. That and the hamstring, and this [injury] is the thick part of the groin. It's hard to get to it. I'm not limited. The question is: Can I hold up? That's the biggest question."

Even if Andrews and Smith are able to play, they might not be as sharp as they would have been if they had played some in the preseason.

"It would have helped to knock some of the rust off, but I feel strong," Andrews said. "I'm sure I'm going to be a little more sore than some of the guys because they've been hitting without me, but I'll be OK. This isn't my first rodeo."

At least Andrews kept his weight down, something that had been a problem for him during his first two seasons.

"I started doing the [stationary] bike . . . and I actually lost seven pounds," said Andrews, who is listed at 6 feet 4 and 335 pounds.

Smith said he would have liked some preseason action.

"I'm a tiny bit" behind, he said.

For Andrews, the Packers game would be his first action since the first half of the Eagles' NFC divisional playoff loss at New Orleans in January. He did not play the second half after suffering a serious neck injury that required a trip to a New Orleans hospital.

"It's one game at a time, but I definitely have that one on my calendar," Andrews said of this year's Dec. 23 rematch with the Saints. "There were just some things that went on with the opposing team. There was one player in particular that did some things that I didn't appreciate. . . . I won't say any names, but hopefully you'll get a chance to see when we get that far down the schedule."

That rematch with New Orleans is still far away. Right now, the Eagles just want Andrews and Smith at the starting line on Sunday in Green Bay.