Alex Henery thought he was going to kick, and then he wasn't.
It was his turn in the field-goal rotation with competitor Cody Parkey, and the Eagles were about to attempt a 53-yarder Thursday night. But as Henery, with helmet on, prepared to walk onto the field, special-teams coach Dave Fipp held him back.
Parkey ran past both onto the field and stroked a kick that sailed through the uprights for his second 50-yard-plus field goal in the Eagles' preseason finale win over the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. It seemed like the death knell to Henery's chances of remaining with the team.
Asked when Fipp told him that Parkey was taking his turn, Henery said: "Probably three seconds before it happened."
Asked if he wanted a chance to kick a long one, Henery added: "Yeah, with the wind that way. It's in my range."
Parkey said that Fipp told him to be ready for a long attempt, so the rookie kicker practiced into the net as Henery stood and waited his turn.
"Alex was going to be up, but it was a longer field goal," Parkey said. "They saw me hit the first one, so they wanted to see if I could do it again."
It was the strongest indication that Chip Kelly, when he trims his roster to 53 before Saturday's deadline for the regular season, had already made a decision. Parkey, acquired last week in a trade with the Colts, made a compelling case.
"That's what we brought him in [for], to give Alex some competition," Kelly said. "We'll go through everything, what the whole week was like with him, and make our decisions on anybody tomorrow."
Parkey's other long field goal was a 54-yarder in the second quarter. He was also good from 25 yards just before the half. To put Parkey's long-distance kicks into perspective, Henery had hit only 2 of 5 field goals beyond 50 yards in his NFL career, his longest at 51 yards.
When Fipp held him out before the 53-yarder, Henery simply took off his helmet and put on the cap he wore in the first half. Several players, including tackle Jason Peters and defensive end Cedric Thornton, walked up to chat with their teammate.
"He made a great hit, that's what goes through my mind," Henery said of Parkey. "We're still teammates."
There was another awkward moment when the Eagles were driving again into Jets territory late in the third quarter. Parkey and Henery, both with helmets on, were taking turns practicing into the net, once almost bumping into each other.
It was unclear which one would have been called on to kick a field goal, but when the Eagles eventually scored a touchdown, it was Henery who took the extra point.
As for kickoffs, there wasn't enough difference to proclaim either the victor. Parkey, who led the nation in touchbacks last year at Auburn, had one touchback on three kicks. Henery had two touchbacks on three kicks.
But in the field-goal department, Parkey put his best foot forward. It helped that Henery never got a chance. The highlight for Parkey, of course, was the 54-yard field goal that sailed over the crossbar and through the uprights with room to spare.
The three-pointer was greeted by, in all probability, one of the loudest cheers ever for a preseason field goal at Lincoln Financial Field. The last time an exhibition kick generated that much applause was probably when Henery swished a game-winning 51-yarder just days after Andy Reid's son died.
Whether Henery deserves to stick around or not, Eagles fans have made it clear whom they favor. And until Parkey entered into their hearts with his 50-yard-plus kicks, it was "Anybody but Henery." But it will require a mild leap of faith from Kelly if he is to choose the rookie over the veteran of three seasons.
Henery has increasingly become unreliable, including this preseason, when he missed a 47-yard try against the Patriots and then a week later a 31-yarder vs. the Steelers. But he's been there, done that, and while a game-winner is lacking from his resumé, he has connected on some big kicks in his career.
But often, Reid and Kelly elected to either punt or go for it on fourth down rather than have Henery attempt beyond-50-yard field goals. Parkey, whose Auburn best was 51 yards, proved that he had enough leg for Kelly to trust. But will the coach have enough faith in a rookie when few have been successful a year out of college?
The Eagles may have other options once rosters are trimmed. There are a dozen or so teams still with two kickers. Dustin Hopkins, who was released by the Bills this week, is still on the street.
But the Eagles may already have their man, and his name isn't Henery.
"I think I'm an NFL kicker," Henery said. "It's just one of those things, find the right spot at the right time if it's not here."