JAMES CASEY played 12 offensive snaps last Sunday, 25 more on special teams, where he has become a key cog. Casey prepares, though, as if he's going to take every snap, every week.
Casey, 29, takes pride in being the first Eagle at NovaCare every morning. He got into that habit in Houston, where he played his first four seasons, before signing with the Eagles as a free-agent tight end last spring.
"In Houston, I would get to the stadium at 4:45 [a.m.], 5 o'clock, most days," Casey said. "I lived right next to the stadium. [Quarterback] Matt Schaub would get there real early, and I wanted to make sure I was there before he was . . . Here, we don't have to be here as early," because coach Chip Kelly starts the day a little later and extends it a little longer.
"Early on, I was just feeling out what time everybody gets here," Casey said. "Then I realized if I get here by 6 o'clock, I'll definitely be the first guy here."
Brandon Graham sometimes vies with Casey for first arrival, and during his knee rehab, so has rookie Earl Wolff, but they haven't beaten him yet.
"I put myself in the shoes of a coach or a front-office person. I'd want my players here early, working hard, going over extra stuff," Casey said. "But what I really do it for is to get a head start on the day, to go over some plays, if I'm unfamiliar with them, or just to do some personal stuff.
"I like to read a lot of books, nonfiction books, a lot of self-help stuff, so I come in early . . . I've got two kids at home, two boys, a wife - I can't just go home and start reading . . . I'll have stuff in the evening that I'll want to do" during family time, but won't.
"I'll kind of mark it down. Then when I come in in the morning . . . I've got plenty of time to do my own stuff. They're asleep [early in the morning] anyway, so I'm not taking any time away from my family."
Casey's role here hasn't been what he or maybe even Kelly envisioned when he signed. The Eagles didn't know then they were would get Zach Ertz in the second round of the draft. But Casey said a limited role is no excuse for limited preparation.
"Of course, I want to be on the field, I want to start, I want to be out there contributing as much as I possibly can on offense, but that's everybody in the locker room . . . I feel like I have a critical role on the team," he said.
Chip Kelly was asked yesterday how close his offense is right now to the ideal he might have envisioned when he brought it from Oregon.
"I don't have an ideal. Our job is very simply to move the ball and score points. I don't really care what it looks like," Kelly said. "The offense we run here is not Oregon's offense, it's the Philadelphia Eagles' offense. It was put together by a group of really smart guys on the offensive side of the ball, and everybody contributed to it. There are some things we did at Oregon, there are some things that [offensive-line coach] Jeff Stoutland did at Alabama, there are some things that [wide-receivers coach] Bobby Bicknell did with the Buffalo Bills, there's some things that [quarterbacks coach] Billy Lazor brought when he was in the NFL and when he was at Virginia. There's things Pat [Shurmur, the offensive coordinator] brought from Cleveland."
We fact-checked Kelly's statement with wideout Jeff Maehl, who played for Kelly at Oregon, and he endorsed it. Maehl said there are many more concepts in this offense than Kelly used at Oregon.
Maehl, by the way, returned to practice yesterday from the concussion he suffered Sunday. Maehl said he briefly experienced blurred vision after being kneed in the head by a teammate while covering the opening kickoff against Arizona, then later got a headache. He said he's fine now.
Earl Wolff (knee) and Najee Goode (hamstring) missed practice again, as did Clif Geathers (personal reasons).
Chip Kelly, who seems to enjoy banter with reporters, went R-rated when asked whether defenses sometimes try to lure you into something by giving you one look early, then changing it.
"That's way too smart for me," he said. "I don't see that, and I know as a playcaller, we don't do that. 'Hey, I'm gonna call three [bleepy] plays in a row, and let them think the next one's gonna be [bleepy], and then we're going after 'em.' That's not my mentality . . . Now, you may think [he's calling bad plays on purpose]; write that. If there's a [bleepy] call on Sunday - 'he's setting 'em up!' "