Watkins: 'Huge weight lifted'

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Danny Watkins waited 26 years, what was another five days?

Apparently, it was a lot.

“This is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, that’s for sure,” Watkins said after he and the Eagles agreed to a four-year contract on Monday. “Ever since I got in Philly I’ve been chomping at the bit to get in.”

But Watkins had to wait as his representation and the Eagles had a five-day standoff during training camp. The issue was the number of guaranteed years. Watkins’ agent, Joe Panos, wanted all four years guaranteed. The guard ended up only getting three.

The total value of the deal is worth a little less than $7.9 million, an NFL source said.

“I don’t know much about the business aspect of football,” Watkins said. “I trust [Panos] and I left it in his hands. He asked me if I was OK with it and I said, ‘Yeah, ‘I’d like to get in there.’”

Panos is a former Eagles guard.

Watkins reported to Lehigh University Monday night after the deal was consummated and will be available to practice Wednesday. Penciled in as the team’s starting right guard, the 26-year-old rookie has missed time learning new offensive line coach Howard Mudd’s teachings.

“I got to come in and compete,” Watkins said. “Nothing’s guaranteed that I’m going to be a starter by any means.”

But will he be able to pick up the blocking technique and the Eagles’ offense in time for the start of the season without the benefit of off-season workouts.

“I’ve only been playing four years and I felt like I picked the sport up pretty good,” Watkins said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am if I wasn’t a quick learner.”

Watkins didn’t start playing football until he was 22. While attending Butte College in Oroville, Calif. to study fire sciences a coach had him come out for football. Two years later the former firefighter from Kelowna, British Columbia was an All-American at Baylor.

The Eagles selected him with the 23d pick in the first round in April, but he had to wait three months to join the team because of the NFL lockout. He drove up here last Wednesday on the day players were to check into their dorms, but was sent home because he didn’t have a contract.

He also tried to get into the NovaCare Complex as the rest of his teammates were up at camp, but he was turned away there, too.

Now he’s officially an Eagle.

“I’m here to learn,” Watkins said. “And it’ll be an honor and privilege to get in front of [Eagles quarterback Michael] Vick and let him work his magic.”