Leave it to Howard Mudd, avid motorcyclist, to evoke a riding metaphor when asked if some recent time off would extend his coaching life.

"There's still some gas in the tank," Mudd said Tuesday. "I want to drive fast, too, and I want to go a long ways."

Mudd made his first appearance at spring practices this offseason. With the blessing of coach Andy Reid, the 71-year-old offensive line coach skipped four weeks of voluntary workouts in an effort to stay fresh for the coming season.

"I told him to go practice retirement," Reid joked. "He wasn't very good at it the last time, right?"

Reid, of course, talked Mudd out of retirement in January 2011. But a degenerative hip acted up last training camp, and finally needed to be replaced in October. Even with the new hip, Mudd required a cane and often had to coach from a cart.

But Mudd vowed to return once the season ended. Still, the Eagles wanted to keep him healthy enough to last through training camp and the long season, so they handed the reigns over to assistant Eugene Chung until Mudd returned for this week's mandatory minicamp.

Mudd, sans cane and awkward stance, said the time off was beneficial.

"You don't have the same energy when you're older, you just don't," Mudd said as he stood for a 15-minute interview. "To be honest, I feel very rejuvenated. I feel vital. I was sitting with Eugene this morning watching some video of some of the past practices. I said, 'Do you realize how much I like this?' "

As promising as the Eagles say Chung's future as an offensive line coach is, he is not Mudd, considered in some circles to be the best at his trade. He's an imposing figure whose presence at practice is always felt (and heard).

"I think guys were a little more on their toes," guard Evan Mathis said. "You step it up a little when Howard's here. . . . We were on our teacher and now we're on the principal, I guess."

Despite his absence, Mudd said the line looked as it did at the end of the last season, but even better because center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins had improved during their first full offseason.

There is one notable difference between that unit and this one, however, and it should be a challenge every bit as great as Mudd's molding the above rookies into starters.

Left tackle is no longer manned by an all-pro. Jason Peters' ruptured Achilles tendon led to the acquisition of Demetress Bell in early April. Mudd spent time with the former Buffalo Bill before he went on his hiatus, but Tuesday was the first time the coach had him on the field.

"He's very athletic," Mudd said of Bell. "He's exactly what I thought we were going to get when we signed him."

But he remains a project, having never blocked in Mudd's aggressive way, and there's the expected drop-off in having to replace Peters.

"I don't anticipate changing the entire offense because we don't have Jason Peters," Mudd said. "Will some of the things be less spectacular? Probably. But . . . we're going to win games with Demetress Bell."

Before Peters' injury, much was written about the continuity of the line, something a Reid-coached team hasn't had in some time. After right tackle Todd Herremans and Mathis signed contracts in March, the Eagles had all five of their starters signed through 2014.

And then one of the best left tackles in the game went down. Mudd, though, thinks he can get the most out of the untapped Bell, as he did with Peters last season.

"I think that's exactly where we are" with Bell, Mudd said. "Jason was a project and, boy, he really responded and all that."

Kelce and Watkins were projects and remain so. Mudd said that Watkins, who he referred to as a "monster," trusts his instincts more. He said that Kelce was taking on more responsibility in calling out protections, something quarterback Michael Vick primarily handled a year ago.

"He understands what we need, taking some pressure off from Mike," Mudd said. "Making some calls, maybe the same calls that Mike would have made."

Vick still has the authority to overrule Kelce. Mudd said the quarterback is playing with as much confidence as he's seen.

"I know the proof is in the pudding, we haven't played any games, there's no one that's really hit him . . . but I think that where he's come since the season until now, his confidence in what we're doing" is high, Mudd said.

The coach's confidence seems to be brimming as well. Mudd was asked if he was physically prepared to last 16 regular-season games.

"I was thinking more of those 19," Mudd said in a not-too-subtle reference to reaching the Super Bowl. "I like that idea a lot."

on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.