Howard Mudd has returned, or as guard Evan Mathis put it in so many words, the principal was back.
The Eagles offensive line coach was given the first four weeks of spring practices off so that he could rest and remain fresh once the long slog of training camp and the regular season begin. Mudd, 70, had hip replacement surgery last October and has had trouble standing for long periods.
But he returned to Philadelphia on Monday -- sans cane -- and was at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday for the Eagles' three-day mandatory minicamp. He said he liked what he saw after the first day of workouts, and said he told Jason Kelce that when the second-year center asked.
“I feel like we’re right where we left off last year except you and [right guard] Danny [Watkins] are even further along," Mudd said.
Mudd hasn't had the opportunity to watch left tackle Demetress Bell on the field up close, though. The Eagles have been sending video to the coach, who was splitting time between his homes in Arizona and Seattle. Bell, acquired after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon in March, still has to completely learn Mudd's very specific blocking techniques.
The real work won't be done until the players can hit at Lehigh.
“He’s very athletic. He’s exactly what I thought we were going to get when we signed him," Mudd said. "Very good spirit about him. Very tough minded, wants to learn. Not satisfied till he learns it.”
But can he replace Peters, who Mudd said was "one-of-a-kind,” or at least fill in without there being a major drop-off?
"Is it hard to replace? I guess … I don’t even think about that. I think this guy will help us win games," said Mudd, who later added: “I don’t anticipate changing the entire offense because we don’t have Jason Peters. Will some of the things be less spectacular? Probably. But I’m going to say it again … we’re going to win games with Demetress Bell.”
Mudd also confirmed that Kelce has assumed more of the pre-snap protection calls to assist quarterback Michael Vick in his reads.
“Yeah, he’s taking on more responsibility," Mudd said. "He understands what we need, taking some pressure off from Mike. Making some calls, maybe the same calls that Mike would have made.”
-- Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was excused from practice. He was home attending the funeral of a cousin. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Cox should be back by Wednesday.
-- Defensive end Vinny Curry (ankle) was still out of practice. Every other player that was healthy to practice was in attendance.
-- The Eagles invited three players to practice on a tryout basis -- linebacker Ryan Rau, defensive end Frank Trotter and wide receiver Raymond Webber.