Nick Foles practiced for the first time in more than two weeks on Monday, a fact that would have resonated far more in the Philadelphia region in the summer of 2014 than it did this week.
But it still matters that Foles is nearing full participation in practice. It matters for the Eagles, who made a change at backup quarterback this offseason because they wanted Foles should anything happen to Carson Wentz. And it matters to Foles, who tried to play through elbow soreness early in training camp before taking a seat for two weeks.
"It sort of catches you off guard and it's something you think will go away but it gets worse and worse and worse," Foles said after practice Monday. "It's just something I've been trying to treat, and it never went away. There were days it felt OK, but never days where it felt great. And then there were days it felt horrible. So it's just one of those things. It feels great now."
Foles, who was absent in the preseason opener, does not expect to play Thursday against the Buffalo Bills. He expects to get preseason work, though, and the third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 24 appears to be a realistic target.
"You don't want to rush it, but at the same time, you want to get him in the action," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.
The team termed Foles' absence as "elbow soreness." He wouldn't divulge the specific diagnosis, but he had inflammation in his passing elbow that the team was monitoring. They shut him down for a period when Foles was only an observer in practice. He started to lightly throw during the weekend, and Monday was the first day he practiced. He took part in individual drills and some seven-on-sevens. He'll throw more on Tuesday, rest for a few days, and then expects to be "full go" in less than a week.
"I don't know how many I threw, but it felt good," Foles said. "There wasn't a moment I was like, 'Uh, oh,' which is good. I've learned a lot through this experience, so it'll be a way to maintain my arm for the rest of my career."
This injury taught Foles the value of how to prepare his arm to throw and recover after throwing. He'll have a more elaborate pre-practice warmup routine. It will focus on "a lot of stretching," loosening the arm, and massaging the area around the elbow to ensure blood flow.
After practice, he undergoes treatment on the elbow. He continues arm exercises and then has recovery later in the day. Foles expects the new routine to keep his arm fresh daily and avoid what he has experienced the past two weeks.
He has even added a sleeve to his right arm – look at pictures from 2013, and Foles didn't wear an elbow sleeve – to keep his elbow warm.
"It just feels good with the tightness around it," Foles said. "I don't need it, but it's more of a mental thing."
Elbow injuries are more often associated with pitchers than with quarterbacks. Foles does not how he suffered the injury. He said it could be from getting hit on the elbow, from wear-and-tear, or from playing through injuries.
He acknowledged that "fundamentals do come into effect," and there have been times when he must alter how he throws or adjust his arm slot. That will still be required when he's on the field, but he's cognizant of the angle of his arm to avoid pressure on the elbow or his forearm. He is paying attention to his release point and keeping his left arm tucked in to ensure the proper mechanics.
"My arm's always felt good," Foles said. "This is the first time I've ever had to deal with it. I had a little bit last year where it flared up for the first time ever. It's new to me. But I'm learning. I'm still young. I'm 28; supposedly when you're 28 you're in the prime of your athletic career. So hopefully it just stays stable and my arm stays good for the rest of my career."
Foles, whose 2013 Pro Bowl season will remain a part of Eagles lore, knows his job now is to be Wentz's backup. But that's still a critical role for the Eagles, who know the value of backup quarterbacks — that was how Foles' memorable 27-touchdown, two-interception campaign began. Last season was the first year since 2008 when the same Eagles quarterback started all 16 games, and even Wentz missed a month in the summer with a hairline fracture in his ribs. Only 14 NFL quarterbacks started every game for their teams last season. Foles, who was the backup in Kansas City, was one of the injury replacements.
The Eagles signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million contract this offseason and were willing to absorb $7 million in dead money to Chase Daniel so Foles could take his place. If Foles' injury had lingered into the season, Matt McGloin would be the Eagles' No. 2. Foles is far more accomplished in the NFL and provides the Eagles a better security blanket, but that's only if his right arm is healthy.