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Reid Era Camp Classics: No. 3

As the countdown continues to this year's training camp at Lehigh, the Daily News and Eagletarian have gone back to look at some of our favorite or most interesting events and storylines of training camps and the preseason during the Andy Reid Era. Each weekday for the next two weeks, we will count them down, leading to No. 1.

Reid Era Camp Classics: No. 3

Offensive lineman George Hegamin might best be remembered for going AWOL during training camp. (File Photo)
Offensive lineman George Hegamin might best be remembered for going AWOL during training camp. (File Photo)

As the countdown continues to this year's training camp at Lehigh, the Daily News and Eagletarian have gone back to look at some of our favorite or most interesting events and storylines of training camps and the preseason during the Andy Reid Era. Each weekday for the next two weeks, we will count them down, leading to No. 1.

NO. 3: HEGAMIN AND THE BLOCKING SLED

TOUGH SLEDDING, BIG GUY
CONTRITE HEGAMIN ENDURES PENANCE AFTER GOING AWOL

Published: Aug. 24, 1999

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By MARCUS HAYES, Daily News Sports Writer

The day after he made a small man's move, George Hegamin stood like a big man and took his medicine.
On Sunday morning, Hegamin bolted from training camp after learning he was demoted from his starting spot at right guard to rookie Doug Brzezinski. Hegamin went to the home of his agent, Al Irby, who was on his way out the door to church. Irby instructed Hegamin to return and apologize to everyone.

Hegamin did. He talked to Reid. He attended last night's meetings and made bed check at a local hotel.

Contrite, he rejoined the team for yesterday's work. Of course, he did a little extra work as punishment for his actions Sunday.

Reid kept him after the morning practice. With a towel around his neck and an impassioned look on his face, Reid stood beside Hegamin and slowly barked commands as the 6-7, 331-pound lineman slammed into a blocking sled in 80-degree heat.

A few front-office employees, a cluster of running backs, a ball boy or two and a trainer stood inside the fenced-in fields. A gaggle of reporters witnessed the penance from just outside.

Hegamin started at the goal line of the northernmost practice field behind Veterans Stadium. He hit the sled again . . .and again . . .and again. It would move four feet; six feet; two feet, then twist sideways. Hegamin would reach up and straighten it, or maybe Reid would turn it back around for him.

Hegamin finished after about five minutes. Reid abruptly turned and strode away, resembling a troubled father after meting out discipline. Over Reid's right shoulder an exhausted Hegamin was down on both knees.

A few seconds passed. Hegamin made it to one knee. As Reid exited the field, Hegamin stood. Moments later, he began his lonely walk back to the gate, where the real punishment began.

"Which one of you guys is first? " Hegamin asked the press.

Hegamin apologized to his teammates, his family (he's a Camden native), his coaches and his God.

"It was a selfish move on my part," Hegamin admitted. "I let my emotions get in the way. It will never happen again. "

Asked if he was embarrassed at having his punishment watched, Hegamin said, "It wasn't really humiliating. I was just disappointed that I let myself get to this point. I'm a stronger man than I portrayed yesterday. It was just a bad mistake. I'm only human. "

As a human, Hegamin was offended when line coach Juan Castillo told him of the coaches' plan to play Brzezinski, the team's third-round pick.

"It was a blow," Hegamin said. "But Andy runs this team and he runs it well. I'm going to follow him to the end. I'm going to follow him until the last day. If he feels like this is going to fire me up, then, hey, strike a match, baby. I'm ready to go. "

So, too, was he ready to go Sunday.

"I don't know what I was thinking," Hegamin joked. "I want to plead temporary insanity, but (Reid) wasn't going for that. "

Hegamin was fined an undisclosed amount. He didn't mind losing the money as much as he minded the post-practice exertion.

"I think that's the first time I pushed a dummy a 100 yards in all the years I played football," said the seven-year veteran.

Not that he questions Reid's authority:

"I understand what he's doing. I respect what he's doing. And I'm here. I'm happy. I'm joyful I got a second chance . . .a third or fourth chance to keep my job, and to earn my starting job back. So let's go from there. "

Hegamin could have been referring to his unimpressive career. He left North Carolina in 1994, after his sophomore season, and spent five years with the Cowboys, who chose him in the third round. In Dallas, he only started occasionally, filling in for injured players.

The Eagles signed him to a five- year, $10 million contract last year, but he only started the last five games of the Eagles' wasted 1998 season.

Now, with his first real chance to start on opening day, Hegamin nearly committed career suicide. Hegamin is due to make $1.45 million this year. Irby agreed that if he does not start, he probably will be asked to take a pay cut. If he doesn't start and doesn't take a pay cut, he probably would be released.

But Irby doesn't think the Birds want to banish Big George.

"I think this whole thing was meant to light a fire under him," Irby said. "I told George, 'I think they expect you to get your job back. ' "

Yesterday, Reid gave no inkling he was even considering cutting Hegamin. After the punishment, Reid said, all would be forgiven.

"I don't hold grudges," Reid said.

He doesn't hold back, either. Hegamin came close to collapsing a couple of times during the post- practice exercise. Reid had no words of sympathy or encouragement.

Asked what Reid said during the ordeal, Hegamin replied:

"He said, 'Set, hut, go! Set, hut, go! C'mon, set, hut, go! Get up! I don't care how you get it. Set, hut, go! Set, hut, go, George! Set, hut, go! ' "

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