BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Center Jamaal Jackson returned to Eagles practice for a short stint Sunday, less than eight months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Jackson and guard Todd Herremans, starters on the offensive line, came off the physically-unable-to-perform list and took part in their first practices of training camp at Lehigh University.
Herremans had been sidelined since late May with a balky left foot.
Each was limited and did not take part in any full-contact drills. Still, the fact that they were with the team at all added to the Eagles' hope that they could be ready to solidify the offensive line early in the season. Just when, though, is unclear, head coach Andy Reid said.
Jackson, the anchor of the line last season, still thinks about his last game.
It was two days after Christmas, the same day that an Inquirer story praised his durability. He was hurt early against the Denver Broncos. The Eagles won without him but got trounced by the Dallas Cowboys in the next two weeks, ending their season.
"You hate to go down with your team in prime position going to the playoffs," Jackson said. "I still think about that last snap that I took, and I still think about it every day. It's something that over time I'm going to have to forget. There's another season ahead."
The 30-year-old Jackson said he was optimistic that he could be ready for the Sept. 12 opener.
Reid said he wanted to monitor both players' progress.
Jackson, Reid said, is ahead of schedule, but no sure thing for Week 1.
"It's too soon," he said. "I've got to see how his leg reacted after this practice. Then it's going to be the same thing the next day, and we're just going to take it day by day and see how he does, and make sure you don't overwork it."
Herremans, 27, is more likely to be ready for the opener, the coach said.
"I think he will be, unless there's a setback," Reid said. "Again, I've got to see how his foot reacts to the work that he's given here."
Herremans, who missed five weeks last year with an injury in the same foot, said that if sitting out now "is the price to be able to play all season, I'll live with it."
Reid also had been optimistic about Herremans before training camp.
Herremans and Jackson had been working out on the sidelines at Lehigh while the rest of the team practiced.
On Sunday, Jackson participated in a small portion of the morning practice. Herremans was in for part of the morning and all of the light afternoon workout, which moved indoors to a basketball court because of rain.
"It felt different. I'm not going to lie," Jackson said. "It felt good just getting out there and just shaking the rust off a little bit. We'll add a little bit more as the days go on and see how it is."
Jackson wore braces on both knees. His elbow hit one brace when he snapped the ball, he said. He called the morning practice a step along the way to getting back into games.
Meanwhile, Nick Cole, one of the men who might stand in for Jackson, also returned to practice after missing time with a sore knee. He took part only in the afternoon session, which had no contact. He worked with the first team, bumping down Mike McGlynn, who had performed well in Cole's place.
Reid said Cole remained his top choice to replace Jackson, despite some struggles early in camp.
Cole declined to talk to reporters after practice, but McGlynn said he still hoped to start regardless of who returned to the field.
"Everybody wants to start. That's my goal," said McGlynn, a fourth-round draft pick in 2008. And if Jackson and Cole move ahead of him? "Will I be [ticked] off? Yeah, anybody would be. I want to be out there and start. I feel like it's time for me to get up and get going."
McGlynn delivered all of the snaps in the first team's one quarter of action in the Eagles' first preseason game Friday. After reviewing the game tape, Reid said McGlynn had played "very well."
"He needs to play more, and he's got plenty of room for improvement, but for his first time out, that was a pretty good day," Reid said.