BETHLEHEM — O.J. Atogwe practiced with the Eagles for the first time Thursday. Atogwe is set to test all that conventional wisdom about how important offseason sessions are, the official dogma of the NFL in 2012, after everyone lost the 2011 spring work to the lockout.

"I definitely would say [offseason work] is not overrated," Otogwe said, after a brief practice, the first full-squad gathering at Lehigh, which was closed to the public. "But I don't believe I'm far behind. I learn defenses quick. I've played in the league a long time [this is his eighth season]. Concepts remain the same. Now it's just assimilating the terminology and doing things the way the coaches want me to do it. For every player, that takes practice.

"I'm just meeting a lot of these guys for the first time, but they've been very welcoming, very encouraging. For me, it's learning the system, as far as how they practice, how they move from drill to drill — that's for me, the things I didn't know."

It's been a humbling 12 months for Atogwe, a safety who signed with the Redskins a year ago, for 5 years and $26 million. Washington finished 5-11 and Atogwe finished with just 66 tackles, his lowest total since he spent his rookie year with the Rams on special teams. He forced no fumbles, also for the first time since that rookie season. Atogwe started just eight games, bothered by a toe injury. The Redskins released him in March.

"I would say yes, I was," Atogwe said, when asked if he was surprised to be released. "Even though the year was rough for me personally, through injuries, I believed they brought me there for a reason. I was fully committed to be there for the purpose they brought me there for. There's no hard feelings. They made their decision … I'm glad to be here, an Eagle."

Atogwe, franchised by the Rams just 3 years ago, found himself sitting on the free-agent market from March until June 19, when the Eagles offered a 1-year deal. Yes, he's 31 and has had shoulder and knee issues in recent years, in addition to the toe, but he still might have hoped to get snapped up a little more eagerly.

"It definitely was a humbling experience. My God tells me humility precedes honor [a quote from Proverbs]. I took it the best way I could, faithfully," he said. "I had some injuries I needed to heal up, so I took the time to get healthy, took the time to get stronger. I made myself a better person during that interim period, and I'm glad that I'm here now."

Eagles safeties coach Mike Zordich sounded very eager earlier this week to see Atogwe challenge his young returning starters, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen. Coleman would seem to be the more vulnerable of the two.

"I still see a pretty darned good football player," Zordich said, when asked about Atogwe. "Who knows what happened within the Redskin walls? I don't know what happened. But I see a pretty good football player. I see a guy with experience, I see a guy with playmaking ability, I see a guy who knows how to get turnovers [24 interceptions since 2006]. Those are important things."

Corner Nnamdi Asomugha came into Lehigh with no prep a year ago, so he knows what Atogwe is facing.

"No one's by themselves. We're all in it together. That's what we love about it here," Asomugha said. "Even when I came in last year, the guys were helping … We know what he can do; he's a playmaker, and he's done it consistently in the NFL."

The camaraderie Asomugha mentioned is what Atogwe yearns to develop with his new team.

"Training camp is a period where you come together as men, with like goals and like ideals, and you grind it out together so that you can achieve something great at the end of the year," he said.

Atogwe said his grasp of Juan Castillo's defense "is coming … You know it intellectually, now you've got to go out and do it, practicing."

He said he doesn't think he would have been released if it hadn't been for getting hurt, but he feels it all worked out for the best.

"At the end of this, it'll be a great story."

No Bull

As you probably know by now, after conferring with the coaches and the front office, Jason Babin did not end up running with the bulls in Spain, after all. Concern was voiced as soon as Babin announced his intentions during OTAs.

"It wasn't in the cards, I guess. It's still on my list," said Babin, who had hoped to make a side trip from a wedding he and his wife were attending in Mykonos, Greece. Instead they went to Prague, he said, where there were no rampaging animals, and not that much air-conditioning, it turned out.

"It was hot as you-know-what," he offered.