BETHLEHEM -- The first hint something was awry came in the middle of the afternoon, before any reporters had seen Mike Patterson at Lehigh.
The Birds made a player-for-player trade, something that rarely happens just as training camps are opening. They sent a corner, D.J. Johnson, who ended last season on their practice squad, to the Indianapolis Colts for former Penn State defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu, who spent last season on the Colts' practice squad.
If there was one thing the Eagles didn't seem to need at Lehigh, it was another defensive lineman. That's their most overstocked position -- except for the fact that Patterson, a starter who played last season with an AVM, or tangle of blood vessels on his brain, underwent offseason surgery. Patterson didn't participate in spring work, but said then he expected to be OK for training camp.
Patterson, one of the injured vets asked to report with the rookies Sunday, then showed up and was whisked inside a dorm without answering questions, accompanied by a team spokesman and the team security director.
Sure enough, when Eagles coadch Andy Reid held his welcome-to-camp briefing, Reid quickly turned the lectern over to head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder. Burkholder announced that Patterson will not be participating in training camp.
Burkholder said when a recent X-ray and CT scan were sent for review by Dr. Robert Spetzler, the Phoenix-based AVM specialist who did the surgery, Spetzler didn't think Patterson's skull had healed well enough for him to risk contact. Patterson's agent, J.R. Rickert, said a bone graft needs more time to heal.
Burkholder said he remains confident Patterson, who turns 29 in September, will play again, but Burkholder can't say when that will be.
Burkholder and Reid said they originally were confident six months would be enough healing time, but as Burkholder noted, "not a lot of players have had craniotomies." Burkholder said Patterson will go on the nonfootball injury list.
As Burkholder and Reid spoke down by the practice fields, Patterson reappeared in the dorm area a few miles away. He said Spetzler's decision "threw him off." Patterson has missed only two games since the Eagles drafted him in the first round in 2005, one of those because Reid was resting his starters.
"Physically, I feel fine," Patterson said. "I feel like I can go out there and put some pads on and hit somebody." He collapsed on the field at Lehigh last Aug. 3, scaring coaches and teammates with a prolonged seizure that doctors eventually attributed to an arteriovenous malformation, which he'd probably had since birth. After treatment, Patterson was able to start the first 15 games last season, but it was clear he would need surgery to assure his longterm health.
Asked who will start in Patterson's place, Reid spoke of his four-tackle rotation -- Cullen Jenkins, Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri and rookie Fletcher Cox. Reid said he considers all of them starters.
The other injury news was more routine -- special teams ace Colt Anderson, coming off ACL repair, starts camp on the physically unable to perform list. Left tackle Jason Peters, who is extremely unlikely to play this season after tearing his right Achilles' twice, starts on the nonfootball injury list. Everybody else is good to go.