Reno Mahe was attending church in Utah as the Eagles' punt-return game unraveled Sunday in Green Bay.

"Honestly, I wasn't watching," Mahe said yesterday after signing a one-year contract to rejoin the team.

The Eagles hope Mahe can restore some reliability to their return game when they play their home opener Monday night against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field.

To make room for Mahe on the roster, the Eagles released J.R. Reed, who had just signed with the team 10 days ago after Jeremy Bloom, who handled the bulk of returns during the preseason, was cut.

Mahe was the Eagles' primary punt returner and kick returner last season, and he led the NFL in punt-return average in 2005. He became a free agent after last season, and the Eagles declined to re-sign him. When no other team signed Mahe, he decided to get on with the rest of his life by moving back to Provo, Utah, where he attended Brigham Young University.

"I was able to go back to Utah and position myself to do some really good things," Mahe said. "As far as life after football, I felt as if I was doing just fine. I was in the process of putting together a group home for troubled youths, and I was talking with a station about doing a talk radio show in Utah County. That was only half of it. Now, everything is halted."

Now, Mahe is an NFL football player again.

By Sunday night, he thought there was a chance that might happen but not because he had witnessed the Eagles' punt-return disasters during a 16-13 season-opening loss in Green Bay.

"I had church from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Utah time," Mahe said. "But when I got home my phone was just blowing up from people watching the game. I couldn't believe it."

What the callers to Mahe's cell phone had seen was the Eagles surrender a first-quarter touchdown and a game-winning field goal on two fumbled punt returns. The first was botched by wide receiver Greg Lewis, and the second was botched by Reed. Neither man had returned a punt in an NFL game before Sunday.

Mahe, who will enter his fifth NFL season, passed a physical and fielded some punts at the NovaCare Complex yesterday before signing with the team.

"They wanted to make sure I was in shape, and I wouldn't go out there and fall on my face," Mahe said. "Now I want to do everything I can to help this team win the Super Bowl. When you play this game, that's always the mentality."

With Reed gone, the Eagles have only three safeties on their roster - starters Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine and reserve Quintin Mikell. The team has typically carried four players at that position, so it's not out of the question that the Eagles will make another roster move.

Mahe, who joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2003, said he wasn't disappointed when the Eagles didn't re-sign him after last season.

"It's hard to be disappointed when you were in my situation," he said. "I was in the league for four years. I don't think anybody gave me a chance to be in the league that long. I've been blessed so much."

Now he has been blessed with another opportunity to be the Eagles' main return man.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.