RICK LOVATO doesn't do magic, like Jon Dorenbos, the man he's replacing this weekend when the Eagles visit Baltimore. But Lovato has his talents.
"I'm great at making breakfast sandwiches, subs - those are my two specialties," Lovato said Thursday. "I can make pizza, but I'm not the best at it."
When he isn't working out or long snapping to his father, Lovato said he mostly works at Joyce's Subs and Pizza, the restaurant his father and uncle own in Lincroft, N.J., about 80 miles northeast of Philly. This week, though, the breakfast sandwiches and subs have been left in other hands, as Lovato has taken his to NovaCare, in the wake of the broken right wrist Dorenbos suffered last weekend against Washington.
Assuming he does the job well, Lovato will finish the season here, building up three games' worth of film for future employers. The Eagles signed Dorenbos, 36, to a contract extension earlier this season, so unless he can't bounce back from the injury, the job will be his again eventually, but in the meantime, Lovato, 24, gets to show what he can do. He served similar emergency stints in 2015 with Green Bay (four games, including playoffs) and this season with Washington (two games last month).
"Me now having more experience, building on my resume, is helping me prove to other teams - if (the Eagles) want to keep me around, great, I'd love to stay here, this is awesome, I love being so close to home - but if it doesn't work out here . . . now that my resume has built up so much, I'd like to land on a team permanently, and not just (be) jumping around, filling in for guys who got hurt," Lovato said. "It's a little bit of luck."
Last Sunday, Lovato said, he was out snapping to his father when "I started getting 10 phone calls; my phone died while I was trying to look at who was contacting me. Run to my car, put my phone in the charger, and everyone's like, 'Philly's long snapper's down, you need to go, like, contact your agent.'
"As soon as I go home, I'm watching the game and Brent Celek's snapping. I'm like, 'Oh, geez, this is really bad' . . . At that point, I didn't know if they were going to bring me in, or bring in a few guys to try out, but luckily, on Monday . . . I was the only guy they called, and I was grateful to get that opportunity, to be that guy, to be that free agent with experience."
Punter and holder Donnie Jones said this week he can tell from looking at Dorenbos' hands when he is ready to snap the ball. It takes time to build up that kind of familiarity. It won't be present this Sunday at Baltimore.
"The chemistry between me, Caleb (Sturgis, the kicker) and Donnie is what I'm trying to build up right now," Lovato said. He said getting in sync with them off the field is also important, since the specialists spend a lot of time together.
"It's all just operation time . . . Here it's a silent count . . . It's a matter of me working with him, 'OK, you're going to lift your hand, I'm going to snap' . . . It's a matter of spending that time with them on the side, getting to know them, getting to know the process, watching film, knowing them personally," Lovato said.
Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, an Eagles offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, was asked during his Thursday news conference if he'd intended to run the ball more in Monday's loss to New England.
His answer was vintage Marty.
"Yes. Jeez! I came out of that game, and we had a plan early, and jeez, it went the other way. Then, we are playing catchup. Again, I was proud of the fellas for most of that time, and the catchup. That is my responsibility. Unable to use the running game as much as I thought we would going into that game. That is my responsibility. Certainly knowing the outcome, I would have done that a little differently, earlier."
No Darren Sproles (concussion) or Allen Barbre (hamstring) at practice Thursday . . . Halapoulivaati Vaitai said he thinks he's close to being able to practice again, with the MCL injury he suffered Nov. 20 at Seattle . . . Despite the 80-yard touchdown pass he gave up to DeSean Jackson last week, Eagles corner Leodis McKelvin made a number of good plays, and McKelvin said Thursday he feels his confidence is back. He said he feels this is a closer-knit locker room than he experienced in Buffalo, and he wants to return for the final year of his contract.