BETHLEHEM - Ernie Sims is experiencing quite the culture shock coming from Detroit.
Instead of hotels, he's staying in tiny college dorm rooms.
Instead of training camp at the team facility, he's "in the middle of nowhere," surrounded by mountains.
Instead of no fans being able to attend Lions camp during his early years in Detroit, there figures to be quite a few milling around today when the full pads are on for the first time this camp and more is known about what the Eagles have at a number of positions, including Sims' linebacking corps.
Then there's the new playbook. It's not more difficult, he said, just different terminology than the one he mastered with the Lions.
"I don't read it as much as I read my Bible, but I read it enough that where I get sick of reading it," said Sims, acquired by the Eagles in a three-team trade in April.
Sims stayed on the practice field for a few minutes after yesterday's practice ended, getting extra feedback and questions into the coaches and making sure anything he hasn't grasped gets ironed out before the first preseason game Aug. 13 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"It throws me off a little bit sometimes, but repetition and me being out here and me going through the plays in the meeting room, taking all my notes and everything, it's going to help me," Sims said. "The coaches are doing a great job of trying to fill me in. Even the players are doing a good job of trying to help me get accustomed to the terminology that they talk about."
Sims is expected to shore up pass defense and figures to team with returning middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to improve that area.
That leaves a stable of linebackers fighting for roster spots, including Omar Gaither, Akeem Jordan, and three rookies.
Gaither isn't taking Sims under his wing and showing him the finer points of the defensive scheme, not because of competition, but because the fifth-year vet and former No. 9 overall pick doesn't need a tutor.
"Ernie's what you call just a freak athlete, so he'll be fine in whatever system it is he has," said Gaither. "He's a physical guy. He's not the biggest guy, but he plays bigger than what he is."
The Eagles appear set at cornerback with Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, who is coming off a neck injury.
But Macho Harris sees himself capable of cracking the rotation after his move to cornerback from safety.
"Being comfortable brings confidence, so I'm definitely confident," said Harris, who played cornerback for 4 years at Virginia Tech. "This is my first time playing it on this level, so I got to see how it is, but I'm always up for that challenge. I love a challenge. If the guy thinks he's better than me, prove it. Show me."
Harris was thrown into the fire last season when Quintin Demps played himself out of the starting lineup. And with rookie Nate Allen penciled in as the starter at free safety, the Eagles still don't know who can fill the void left by Brian Dawkins.
"Literally, here in Philadelphia, you really have to be the quarterback of the defense playing safety," Harris said. "So I have to learn that, too. After a while, I started getting very comfortable. If they switched me over I'm comfortable to play it right now, too."
Houston, we have liftoff
Today's full-pads practice gives fans a glimpse of life after Donovan McNabb.
Kevin Kolb, of course, will continue to wear a red jersey, meaning no contact, but the pass rush and movement of the defense will test Kolb as he readies for his first year as the Eagles' starting quarterback.
"I like getting here and getting a head start and getting my feet underneath me, but then you get everybody here, it's time to roll," Kolb said. "You get that feeling, and the energy's up. Now the key is to maintain that energy."
Plus-1 for Avant
Receiver Jason Avant made an eye-opening play during an 11-on-11 scrimmage.
On a deep route toward the end zone, Avant escaped rookie Trevard Lindley, dived and corralled a Michael Vick pass with his left hand, drawing oohs-and-aahs from teammates.
"I ain't in midseason form. I got a long way to go," Avant said. "That was with shells on, with no defenders out there that really challenge that. That catch, I thank God for it . . . but you got a long way to go. You know they're counting that in the end."