EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Before Thursday night, the last time Aaron Grymes played safety was nearly a decade ago at West Seattle High School.
But when you're fighting like hell to earn an NFL roster spot and your bosses tell you to start taking practice reps at safety, you don't hesitate.
"They had me practicing there during the week,'' the 26-year-old cornerback said. "So I figured I was going to get some reps there.
"They want guys who can do more than one thing. The more you can do, the better. Even if it doesn't work out here, hopefully I showed somebody else that I can play more than one position if they need me to.''
A heavy workload in the fourth preseason game generally is not a good sign that you're going to make the team. A heavy workload at a position that you've never played before, well, let's just say Grymes has no plans to go house-shopping today.
NFL teams have to cut down to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about [the possibility of not making the team] and didn't count the numbers,'' Grymes said. "But there's so many scenarios that could happen with so many guys. We've got 15 people in the [defensive backs] room, and I think all of them could be difference-makers on this team.
"It's going to come down to what the guys upstairs decide. I told all of the guys [in the locker room], whatever happens happens. I love them. I told them I wish them all luck and success.''
Grymes, who spent three years in the CFL before signing with the Eagles, appeared last summer to be on his way to making the team before injuring his shoulder while making a diving interception.
But the competition is stiffer this year. Grymes is a solid nickel corner, but hasn't taken a single rep outside this summer.
It appears Patrick Robinson will open the season as the team's starting slot corner. Robinson has the quickness that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz feels the Eagles need inside to deal with the NFC East's three outstanding slot receivers: the Cowboys' Cole Beasley, the Redskins' Jamison Crowder, and the Giants' Sterling Shepard. Robinson's play in the slot made the recently released Ron Brooks expendable.
The Eagles also have three safeties who can play corner: Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, and Jaylen Watkins. And last week, they traded for another corner who can play inside and outside, Dexter McDougle.
"They know what they want,'' Grymes said. "They've got guys outside. They want somebody that can play nickel. And apparently, they're looking for somebody who can play some safety, too. That's what tonight was about.
"Playing safety, I had to come down and cover the slot [receiver] a few times. That's just like playing nickel. Hopefully, I have good enough film to get these guys to keep me. If not, hopefully I'll land on my feet somewhere.''
Considering his lack of experience at safety, Grymes did all right in the Eagles' 16-10 loss to the Jets. He missed a couple of tackles early, including one on a 34-yard run by Elijah McGuire.
"There was some run-gap stuff early in the second quarter,'' Grymes said. "They ran through the C gap, and I missed the tackle. It's a little bit different view [from safety compared to nickel]. But at the end of the day, it's kind of the same situation. Once I got it down and realized what it was going to be like in the box, I think I bounced back pretty well.
"Schwartz kept it pretty simple play-call-wise. But safety and the Mike [linebacker] are the generals of our defense. So I had to make calls I never had to make before. But I thought I did pretty well.''
Midway through the second quarter, Grymes brought down Jets tight end Chris Gragg with a low body tackle in the open field. Gragg injured his knee and ankle on the play and had to be helped off the field. After the game, Jets coach Todd Bowles said Gragg might have fractured the ankle.
Grymes' tackle on Gragg was perfectly legal. But he still felt bad about it.
"I feel terrible,'' said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Grymes, who was giving away nearly 60 pounds to Gragg. "I was asking some guys how it looked, because I didn't want to be the guy responsible for that. I don't know if the guys were just being nice to me, but they said the tackle was fine. He just got his leg caught in the turf. His foot got stuck.
"I wish I could take it back. I wish everybody came off the field healthy. I hope he gets healthy as soon as possible. You never want to see anybody get hurt. At the same time, in the heat of the moment, I was just trying to make a play. Tight ends are big dudes. I'm a small guy. I've got to get him down however I can.''
Last year, the Eagles kept just nine defensive backs on their season-opening roster. They could keep the same number this year, or go with 10.
Right now, eight spots appear to be filled, four by safeties Jenkins, Graham, Rodney McLeod and Chris Maragos, also a special-teams ace; and four more by cornerbacks Robinson, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas, a rookie.
And head coach Doug Pederson was talking after the game as if McDougle also is safe.
"He'll continue to grow in our system, grow in Schwartz's defense,'' Pederson said. "And as we move forward, as we begin to really game-plan and finalize some things, I think things will kind of simplify just a little bit and help him feel comfortable with where he's at and where he's going.''