BETHLEHEM, Pa. - As Andy Reid starts to ease his foot ever so slightly off the accelerator at training camp, the Eagles' injured are getting healthy.
A number of players with various bumps and bruises returned Saturday, although the afternoon session was a much lighter practice than the ones Reid held earlier.
Tight end Brent Celek made his first appearance since he sprained his knee July 26. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (ankle), defensive end Trent Cole (shoulder), guard Todd Herremans (shoulder), safety Nate Allen (hamstring), and safety O.J. Atogwe (groin) were among the injured players who suited up.
"This is normal training camp stuff - the [hamstring] pulls," Allen said. "We're sweating out there. It's hot. Our bodies are fatigued, and guys get dehydrated quickly with this heat."
Guard Evan Mathis missed his third day of practice because of an inner-ear infection. He said he should be back soon. Linebacker Jamar Chaney sat out with a hamstring strain. Mathis did participate in the morning walk-through, however, allowing the coaches to work with the full first-team offense for the first time since the first day of camp.
"Anytime you can work together, communicate, it's huge," Celek said. "I've communicated with Todd over the past year, and to be able to be next to [left tackle] Demetress [Bell] so we get a feel for each other, I think that's huge. I think it's the same with all the guys."
Offensive line battle
With Mathis' prolonged absence, a few backup interior linemen have had the opportunity to work with the first team at left guard.
First it was Dallas Reynolds for two days. And then on Saturday second-year guard Julian Vandervelde got the nod. Steve Vallon and Mike Gibson, two free-agent veterans who were added in the offseason, are also expected to compete for what may be only one spot on the roster.
The key to winning that spot could be the ability to play both guard and center. The Eagles don't have a slam-dunk backup to center Jason Kelce.
King Dunlap, who will likely be the first tackle off the bench during the season, can also play guard. Rookie Brandon Washington could also be assured a roster spot as a reserve guard, although he has yet to take snaps at center.
But the last spot could come down to the linemen who can handle both roles without missing a beat.
The Eagles signed defensive end Xavier Brown. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder last played for the New Orleans Voodoo of the Arena Football League. . . . Wide receiver Riley Cooper, who broke his left collarbone July 28, predicted that he would be back by the season opener Sept. 9. The Eagles estimated that he would need six weeks to recover from surgery.