CORNELIUS INGRAM was back for the final day of rookie camp, and Eugene Bright was glad to see him.
Bright is a former Harriton High star who played defensive end at Purdue, but is being converted to tight end by the Eagles. When Ingram banged his surgically repaired left knee in a collision Wednesday, Bright spent the rest of that practice and all of Thursday's workout as the only tight end on the field.
"It was exhausting, but at the same time, I feel like that's when I learned the most, the entire camp," Bright, 24, said yesterday. More reinforcements arrive Tuesday, when the whole team reconvenes for the final round of OTAs (organized team activities, also known as minicamp), which continues through next week. "After I'd played 10 [plays in a row], it felt like a hundred. It allowed me to be fatigued, and still try to keep myself sound in my technique, and understand the plays and the coverages."
Ingram, the fifth-round rookie from Florida who has looked like a steal in the early going, slid in the draft because he missed last season, while recovering from surgery to his left anterior cruciate ligament. Then he bruised that same knee in a noncontact drill.
"I'll be honest, I was a little scared, but once I got up, the pain started to ease away a little bit," Ingram said. "I went to the doctor [Thursday] morning and everything looked fine, so I'm out here today running around.
"I feel pretty good. At the beginning of practice, it was a little stiff, but once I started to sweat, we got going a lot more, it became more comfortable."
Ingram said he watched Thursday's practice, mimicking what Bright was doing.
"He definitely sucked it up, and he had a great practice," Ingram said.
Before the Eagles worked out and then signed Bright last month, Andy Reid was the only member of the brain trust who had ever seen Bright play tight end. That was one of several positions, including quarterback, Bright played at Harriton, during a career that overlapped those of Reid's sons Garrett and Britt (long before their much-publicized legal troubles). The Eagles' coach was on hand for several of Bright's games, Bright said. He didn't recall them ever speaking, beyond saying hello.
"Me and Britt are the same age, and we were friends, more than me and Garrett," Bright said. He said he has lost touch with Britt and many of his high school friends.
Bright, 6-4, 268, underwent sports hernia surgery as he prepared for the 2008 draft. He wasn't shocked that no one signed him; the injury hampered him his senior year, and after the repair, he needed to spend several months recovering. He'd elected to not get the problem fixed right after the season, hoping he could get through Purdue's pro day and impress scouts. Waiting obviously delayed his recovery.
Bright came home to Bryn Mawr and worked in landscaping, as he had done since high school, for part of that time, and spent the rest in training programs in Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn. He said he never looked for "real" work, never doubted he'd get an NFL shot eventually.
"I never put football out of my mind," Bright said. "In the back of my mind, I knew I was going to get back to football, someway, somehow."
He was a little surprised, though, to hear the Eagles wanted him as a tight end.
"I'm just trying to pick it up as fast as I can," Bright said. "Trying to learn all the moves."
Bright said he thinks that, as a former defensive end, he has a good understanding of the trench-war side of the position. With Brent Celek and Ingram ahead of him, Bright's roster chances might hinge on showing he can block and play special teams better than incumbent backup Matt Schobel.
"I outweigh most of the other tight ends we have by 20 pounds," he said. "Maybe I can be used in those short-yardage, blocking situations."
The part where you run pass routes and catch the ball is a little more difficult.
"It's coming along; the coaches have given some positive feedback," he said. "At the same time, every time I get done running a route, they're right there, telling me, 'Work on this a little better, this was good but you need to pull your arm through and get out of your break faster,' so I'm still learning, still being taught a lot of things."
The reps and the individual tutoring will drop off a little next week, with the whole team on hand.
"When the veterans come back, I'm looking forward to that," Bright said. "I can actually see them do it right, do it full speed, and then I can compare myself on film."
Other rookies, not surprising, also said they found the 5 days of rookie camp beneficial.
"You're getting more reps, it's definitely a key to getting better," first-round wideout Jeremy Maclin said. "I feel like we as a whole group got better this week . . . I know what I'm doing now."
For what it's worth, Maclin doesn't seem lost in the Eagles' offense, isn't constantly being corrected on the field.
Second-round running back LeSean McCoy said he appreciated the one-on-one coaching he got this week.
"You can never play full-go when you can't actually know what you're doing," he said.
The highlight of yesterday's session probably was a leaping red zone catch by sixth-round wideout Brandon Gibson, who hauled in an A.J. Feeley offering that was overthrown in the face of a mock blitz. (The defenders can't tackle Feeley, but if they arrive before he lets go of the ball, the play is blown dead.) . . . The only other news was a Donovan McNabb NovaCare sighting, which wasn't too shocking, since he plays for the Eagles and all. McNabb presumably will take the field with the rest of the team Tuesday. The team released its media schedule for the final 2 weeks of OTAs and no McNabb session is slated. Apparently, the quarterback still wants to avoid being asked about his contract. *
For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read
the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.