The 12th Century Song of Roland has more than 4,000 lines. The Eagles' media guide entry for rookie free agent linebacker Justin Roland has only 10.
Justin Roland added a few lines to his song during Thursday's 24-point fourth-quarter comeback by Eagles reserves, which made the offensive starters' wretched performance seem a little less offensive, the Birds gaining their first preseason victory, 24-13, over the visiting Carolina Panthers.
Previously, Roland was just the kid from Kansas State that somebody on the equipment staff saddled with Jeremiah Trotter's number. After recovering a fumble that led to a field goal Thursday night, then picking off a deflected pass and running it back 74 yards for a toucdown, Roland might become more than just the guy wearing 54 in this camp.
Roland, built almost exactly like fellow rookie linebacker Joe Mays, at 5-11, 242, said he didn't know what happened to make LaBrandon Toefield fumble (Jerome McDougle was credited with forcing it). "I looked up and the ball was just sitting there, like in a perfect square (with no bodies around it). I dove on it and the referee gave it to us," Roland said.
Richmond McGee's 40-yard field goal cut Carolina's lead to 13-10. Then Tony Hunt cut back 51 yards for a touchdown, and the Eagles had the lead. But the Panthers were driving in the final minute when fourth-round rookie safety Quintin Demps blitzed and deflected a Matt Moore pass that Roland ran under.
"I heard it," Roland said, when asked if he'd seen Demps bat the ball. "Then I looked up and it was right beside me, so I just caught it and took off."
"The quarterback was the last dude I had to get by. After I got by him, it was free sailing."
Roland acknowledged he has had a steep learning curve, coming to Jim Johnson's defense from a 3-4 at Kansas State. "The whole mindset of the defense is different," he said. "I'm finally getting to where I can make plays on the defense."
Roland had one regret, standing in the Linc locker room afterward.
"Everyone's telling me I should have kept the football," he said. "I'm a rookie. I didn't know we could just keep the football. Next time I'm going to have to hold on to the football."