BETHLEHEM - Newly acquired Eagles tight end Nate Lawrie won't slam the door on a career in politics. Maybe he'll start a couple of businesses. Or go to law school.
The political science degree from Yale can open a lot of doors - except maybe the one marked N-F-L, where he is the only Yale grad currently playing in the league. (Eagles first-year secondary coach Dick Jauron is also a former Bulldog.)
Brute over brains has been the culture of the league, but Lawrie has a little of both, and the fact he is both run-blocker and route-runner is why the Eagles brought him back to Philadelphia this week for a second look. He was on the practice squad for 2 weeks in 2004, his rookie season.
"He's a combination player, so he's going to give you a little bit of the run game," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I'm not going to tell you he's a great run-blocker, but he's a good run-blocker. He probably improved that part of his game more than anything. He could always catch the football and run, but it gives you a combination guy, and I think that's important for this offense to have."
It's also important for the offense to have a fourth tight end, rookie Clay Harbor noted, to take some of the reps in camp and not have just two guys doing all the work. Third-year tight end Martin Rucker, who was activated by the Eagles late last season off their practice squad, was cut to make room for Lawrie. Cornelius Ingram, another tight end, practiced yesterday afternoon but is nursing swelling in his calf that crept down from his twice-repaired left knee, Reid said.
Reid shot down the notion Lawrie was brought in as a security blanket in case Ingram's knee further delays his 31-month wait to play in a game. Ingram did not sound optimistic he'd play Friday against Jacksonville in the preseason opener, saying he's trying to stay relaxed and focused.
"I don't know why I'm here except for the fact I can play football," Lawrie said. "What position they want me or where they want to play me, that's up to them. I just want to make the most of this opportunity and play hard, and, hopefully, we can make something happen."
Lawrie, drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2004 draft, was a free agent. He worked out for the Eagles last Wednesday, got the call Sunday morning and drove to Lehigh for yesterday's practice.
He previously played for the Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals, but has just four catches for 43 yards to his name. He also spent time with the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions.
After being released by the Bucs, he landed in Philadelphia as a wide-eyed rookie, unsure of his role. Landing back in Tampa, he learned Jon Gruden's West Coast offense, which he said uses similar verbiage as the Eagles' system.
Where the 6-6, 255-pound Lawrie feels he can make his mark, though, is in the run game.
"I take pride in my ability to run-block and get that down, mix it up on the line of scrimmage," said Lawrie, who grew up in Indianapolis the son of an offensive line coach. "It's something I enjoy doing, so if that's the task they ask me to do, then I'm all for it.
"I'm not a 270-pound guy, so I really have to go after it, have good technique, good footwork and just strike guys when I'm blocking. If my life depends on it, then sure."
Harbor and Brent Celek have proven to be capable combo-type tight ends. As he works toward a roster spot the second half of camp, Harbor said he needs to improve his blocking the most, namely getting his hands inside to avoid holding. Yesterday morning, he stopped defensive lineman Daryll Tapp in his pursuit of the quarterback and later pinned Tapp to the turf on a run play.
Frankly, Harbor sees himself as that combo tight end Reid wants for his offense. Lawrie, though, isn't shy about competition.