Marty Mornhinweg was attempting to explain Friday how, even though Trent Edwards doesn't get many practice reps, he still has a good shot at making it with the Eagles as the second- or third-string quarterback.

Mornhinweg was waging an uphill fight, as his questioner struggled to keep his eyebrows below his retreating hairline. In the NFL, if you aren't getting practice reps, you generally aren't in the plans. Especially at the fairly important quarterback position.

"The reps just aren't going to be there for ya. However, we expect you to be able to go into a football game and get it done at a high level," Mornhinweg, the Eagles' offensive coordinator, said, outlining how he'd explained things to Edwards. "And that's just what he's done, when he would enter a practice game-simulation, or certainly in the last preseason game there.

"Absolutely, [Edwards can make the team]. There's certainly excellent competition there for the backup spot and the third spot . . . He's done just an outstanding job, he's right in the middle of the competition. He understands what his situation is and exactly the role he's in."

The Eagles signed Edwards, 28, in February, when they officially parted ways with Vince Young. At the time, Edwards, with 33 NFL starts to his credit, and inexperienced Mike Kafka were the only quarterbacks on the roster behind Mike Vick. Then in April the Birds drafted Nick Foles in the third round.

Awkward. Suddenly, Edwards was the guy who'd planned a date with a woman, only to have her announce her engagement to someone else the night before. You can go through with the date and have a nice time, but you can be pretty sure you're not getting anywhere.

In the spring OTAs, it was borderline farcical. Some of the coaches seemed to have chances to throw the ball more often than Edwards did. Clearly, the Eagles were diligently preparing Kafka as their No. 2, as he entered his third season, and they were trying to teach Foles the offense. And of course, Foles wasn't going anywhere; third-round draft picks don't get cut, especially when they are 6-6 quarterbacks with big arms.

This was how it continued at Lehigh, which made Edwards' 12-for-20, 106-yard fourth-quarter performance in the preseason opener against the Steelers kind of remarkable. Playing with and against third-stringers, Edwards generated 10 points and a 24-23 comeback win. He got the ball with 1 minute, 45 seconds left at the Eagles' 22 and calmly drove the team 46 yards, setting up Alex Henery's 511-yard game-winning field goal with 12 seconds remaining.

"He's a leader, right when he steps into the huddle," center Jason Kelce said. "You can tell he's someone that's been under fire or in the battle, so to say. He's very comfortable taking charge. So far, in his limited reps, I think he's done well."

Edwards was cut by the Raiders coming out of the preseason last year and never caught on anywhere else. Eagles coach Andy Reid crafted a rationale this week of bringing Edwards along slowly to get his arm back to where it had been when he played regularly in the NFL.

"Every day, it looks like his arm has gotten a little bit stronger," Reid said Thursday.

When a reporter asked Edwards about this arm-strengthening explanation later Thursday, Edwards seemed puzzled.

"I was working on some things; they were kind of rewiring my mechanics," he said. "Mostly my footwork; it's moving up in the pocket, instead of remaining in place. And my front shoulder needs to do a better job of staying down, instead of up, so I can get my elbow on top of things, as well," he said.

But he isn't puzzled about how he fits in right now. With Kafka rehabbing a broken nonthrowing hand, Edwards is less of an afterthought than he seemed to be early on, but he still sees little practice time. In Monday's game at New England, he will be the third quarterback, behind Vick and Foles. The starters are scheduled to play as much as three quarters. Don't tune in early to see Edwards.

"Jacksonville and Oakland, the last two teams I've played for, have been the same situations as here," Edwards said. "You can take mental reps, get work in with guys after practice. There's a lot of different ways - there's ways to get better in the film room, here in the locker room. You've just got to find ways around it. I don't think it's difficult at all."

DRC docked

Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was fined $21,000, the NFL confirmed, for his high hit on Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich in the preseason opener. The collective bargaining agreement mandates a 5 percent increase in minimum fines each year, so $20,000 last year is $21,000 this year.

Eagles officials informed Rodgers-Cromartie of the fine as he walked off the field following practice. He seemed stunned.

"Twenty-one thousand? I ain't even got that!" Rodgers-Cromartie exclaimed to reporters. "[Bleep]! I won't hit 'em no more, I'll tell you that much."

Rodgers-Cromartie then acknowledged he left his feet on the hit, probably justifying a fine. Then, he had second thoughts about saying he wouldn't hit a QB again.

"In place, you never know," he said. "It's football, brother. You've got to play through it."

Polk check

Marty Mornhinweg confirmed something that came up earlier - that the coaches have talked about rookie running back Chris Polk as a "lead blocker" - basically, a fullback.

"He is a physical player, isn't he?" Mornhinweg said.

Polk said he is aware of the discussion, but he hasn't been asked to learn anything about the fullback position yet, as he nails down the offense from the running-back spot.

"I have a clue, but not really an idea . . . I'll do whatever it takes to make the team and contribute," Polk said. He said he didn't think his "loose" shoulder, which helped keep him from being drafted, would keep him from embracing a high-impact fullback role.


Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha returned to practice after suffering a whiplash-type injury Monday in a collision with safety Nate Allen. "At this point in terms of pain, I'm really just dealing with a sore neck," Asomugha said. "But that's getting better and better each day, and it's not something that should inhibit me on the field in any way." He expects to play Monday at New England. . . . Andy Reid, presumably displeased with several muffed interceptions by the first team defense Friday, held a session at the JUGS gun for defensive backs and linebackers after practice. The machine was set on a very high speed; some players did well to deflect the ball away from their faces.

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