BETHLEHEM - Brandon Graham's lease was up in Ann Arbor, where he was working out with the Michigan football team. Graham had to negotiate an extra week of wiggle room. Meanwhile, he was getting ribbed by his former Wolverine teammates, who had responded to his attempts to bulk up to 278 pounds for the rigors of the NFL by jokingly calling Graham "fat boy."
It was time to go, time to move on. Graham felt it more with every passing day. He made sure agent Joel Segal felt it, as well.
Segal "was coaching me through the whole thing," Graham said yesterday afternoon, following the Eagles' first full-squad workout of training camp, in which Graham was the second-team left defensive end. "He was just letting me know that, 'I'm going to have you there on time, that's my worry,' and he was there. He was right on time with it, even though I wasn't here last night. I couldn't make the [last] flight [out of Detroit], but I was here early, first thing in the morning."
Graham said he got to bed about 2:30 a.m., got up at 5:15 to fly to Philadelphia, and eventually napped about 30 minutes while being driven up to Lehigh by team security, "so I'm feeling kind of good."
How tough was sitting out the rookie days?
"I wasn't really worried about it, but it took a lot of pressure off me because a lot of people weren't signed. I just wanted to get here because I wanted to show coach [Andy] Reid and all those guys, Mr. [Joe] Banner and Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie, that they didn't waste a pick."
A team source noted early in the week that agents generally don't consider their clients late to camp until veterans are due to report. Graham, the Eagles' first-round pick, 13th overall, was asked if that was the deadline he and Segal set.
"Yes, because he was telling me that realistically I wasn't going to be at the rookie camp," Graham said, with only one first-rounder signed in the entire league when Eagles rookies reported Monday evening. "But, for the veterans, I was going to be there, and he was like, 'You're really not going to miss too much.' "
Graham's lifeline was third-round rookie defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, with whom he talked by phone every evening once the rookies reported.
"He was just telling me about the plays that [the team] went over. It was pretty much the same thing as minicamp, he was saying, and he said, 'Just make sure that you're ahead when you get here. Just make sure you're in shape' . . . He said it was hard for them, because there weren't really any substitutions, and anybody here with them."
Te'o-Nesheim said Graham "definitely sounded like he wanted to be here."
Graham spoke emphatically in the spring about the need to be on time, but at that point he didn't know much about the expiring collective bargaining agreement, and the way the possibility of a 2011 lockout would affect the payment of future bonuses. That proved to be a big issue, creating a signings bottleneck.
"This first-round thing was a little crazy this year, so it's good to get him in," Reid said. "It looks like he's been working, and we'll see how he does here."
Financial terms of Graham's deal have not yet surfaced.
If Graham, listed at 6-2, 268, actually does weigh 278 as he said, people will have to stop characterizing him as a bit undersized. In today's NFL, 278 at defensive end is very respectable. Graham said he added the weight on purpose, but he really wants to work on his midsection muscle tone, because of the kidding from the Michigan players.
"The goal was to just stay where I was and just to get a little bit more muscle and work on my core," he said. "That's the biggest thing, because my stomach, I just wanted to cut it up a little bit more, and I told coach in there that I'm going to be in the weight room a lot, every day, after practice, trying to get extra abs in."
Graham said he'd made a bet with the Wolverines who teased him. How does he win it?
"I just have to cut it up before camp's over with, and show some type of improvement [in tone]," he said.
Reid said of the extra bulk, "It looks like it's good weight."
We're a long, long way, of course, from gaining any sort of definition in the battle for that starting spot opposite Trent Cole. Juqua Parker begins camp as the starter, since he is the incumbent. The coaches have always liked Parker, and the issue with him is that he tends to wear down, so he might well retain the starting job even if there comes a point in the season when Graham (or even free-agent signee Darryl Tapp) is getting more reps.
"You know my feeling on the defensive line. If I can come out of there with eight guys that can play, two at each spot, I'm great with that," Reid said. "If there's more, the more the merrier. You can't have enough good defensive linemen."
Coming off the field, DeSean Jackson again declined to speak to reporters, as he had on Thursday when rushing past them at his dorm. Apparently, that wasn't just some sort of check-in-day thing. DJax intends not to talk, at least not right now. One might speculate that he is trying to avoid answering questions about the fact that the Eagles have made it pretty plain they don't feel they can rework his contract, given CBA restrictions.
"I think he just wants to concentrate on football, he doesn't want to be disrupted by any, I guess, questions on contracts or anything else," Andy Reid said. "He's focused in, and he's in a good place. You saw him out here today, he had one play here where you felt he read the thing the wrong way and he was very angry at himself, so he's ripping and ready to go. He did a great job on his conditioning test. He's in phenomenal shape, so I think he just wants to focus on football. He loves to play, and I think that's where he's at right now, and he's all business right now. And that's a good thing."
Coaching intern Duce Staley was deep in conversation with Shady McCoy when they left the practice field. The thought occurs that Staley was really, really good at blitz pickup, so a few pointers there would not be a bad thing at all . . . As expected, center Jamaal Jackson, defensive end Victor Abiamiri and left guard Todd Herremans began camp on the physically unable to perform list . . . The Eagles changed up the way they do conditioning testing, after experiencing some injuries in those tests the past few years. This year, that took place in OTAs, and yesterday's morning session was devoted to technique and fundamentals.
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