BETHLEHEM -- The Eagles had high expectations for rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox after drafting him 12th overall, the highest they have chosen since taking another DT, Corey Simon, sixth in 2000. Those expectations might have ratcheted up a notch when an Arizona specialist recommended that veteran starter Mike Patterson not participate in training camp because his skull hadn't totally healed from January surgery to fix a tangle of blood vessels on Patterson's brain.
"You just got to go out and compete. I don't think nothing is going to be given to me," Cox said when asked if this might make him a starter, Cox speaking Monday after the first rookie walkthrough of Eagles training camp. The first practice is this afternoon.
Like many of the newcomers to the roster, Cox didn't really know why Patterson wasn't working out with the team in the spring, hadn't heard the story until defensive line coach Jim Washburn explained the whole thing Sunday.
"Coach Washburn shared the story with the team," Cox said. "It was kind of a sad story ... People were telling me how guys just got down and started praying for Mike [after Patterson collapsed on the field last Aug. 3]. He's getting better. We'll just keep praying for him and know that he'll be back as soon as possible."
Eagles offensive position coaches were available to reporters Monday. Wide receivers coach David Culley said this might be as deep a group as he has ever shepherded into camp.
"When you go from the bottom up, the bottom guys are maybe a little more skilled than some guys we've had in the past. I think they showed that in minicamp," Culley said.
When asked for a standout from the short-pants spring work, Culley picked the guy most observers noticed, explosive little former Tulsa standout Damaris Johnson. Johnson missed his senior year after an incident involving merchandise from a store purchased through his fiancee who worked there, for which Johnson didn't pay anywhere near full value.
"He's got good skill level, he's a returner, he can run. He kind of opened up some eyes ... he has good football speed -- he plays fast with the ball in his hands," Culley said. "Some guys have great 40-yard dash times, but when you put a football in their hands, they don't run that fast. He's extremely quick."
The Eagles cut rookie punter Ryan Tydlacka right before camp, so maybe you figured second-year man Chas Henry, who had his ups and downs as a rookie, wasn't going to have to fight to keep his job. Then four veterans showed up for tryouts yesterday, which kind of shot that theory all to heck.
Brad Maynard, 38, has punted for the Giants, Bears, Texans and Browns. Former Cowboy Mat McBriar, 33, is probably the most accomplished of the bunch, having made a Pro Bowl appearance. McBriar was bothered all last season by an injury to his left, plant foot, and was released. Chris Bryan, 30, is a former Australian Rules player, like McBriar. He's been in a few camps and played for the Bucs. Jason Baker, 34, actually punted for the Eagles in 2002 after Sean Landeta was injured. He also has been a 49er, a Chief, a Colt, a Bronco and a Panther.