JASON KELCE was wearing a pink beard for a while there Wednesday, and he said it was my fault.
Actually, Kelce wasn't upset. And he really deserved the credit.
Watching the Eagles' center paint a wall mural during the 16th Annual Eagles Playground Build at Comegys Elementary School in Southwest Philadelphia, I remarked to left guard Evan Mathis that the easiest way to cover the wall would be to dunk Kelce's beard in a bucket of paint, grab his legs, and swirl him around. Kelce heard me, and started thinking.
A few minutes later, he was sitting down while a couple of Comegys students painted his beard pink. Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie seemed delighted at the sight, making sure everyone nearby with a camera phone knew what was happening.
After the girls completed their masterpiece, and posed for many, many photos, Kelce went inside and washed most of the paint out of the bushy, dark brown beard he began growing in February. Kelce has vowed not to trim the beard, which makes him look like a cross between a large woodland animal and the 1970s-era Bill Bergey. He said he is growing it mainly to give fans and teammates something to talk about.
Kelce, a major rookie success last season after arriving in the sixth round from Cincinnati, still looked a little pink around the jawline as he lined up to take the team bus back to NovaCare.
That was after Kelce, his teammates, coaches, and various other employees from across the organization painted interior and exterior murals, laid mosaic tiles, constructed play equipment, planted gardens and played with kids on a turf field that was added to the concrete playground.
Because of the lockout, last year's playground build didn't include the players.
The Eagles have 12 defensive linemen on their roster right now, which is a lot, but not unheard of, given the current 90-man roster limit. What is unusual is that all of them seem to be good candidates for the nine or 10 spots on the 53-man roster that probably will be allocated to the d-line.
This could add up to a problem for a relatively expensive, role-playing vet like Darryl Tapp, who is in the final season of a 3-year, $9 million deal. Tapp is known as a dependable, hard-working player, but he missed four games with injuries in 2011 and didn't have a sack or a hurry after Thanksgiving.
"I'm just coming out every day, trying to sell out every play, run to the ball, tag off on the ballcarrier, let things fall where they may," Tapp said after Wednesday's OTA session.
Unless they get hurt, first-round defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and second-round defensive end Vinny Curry will make the team, though you could say they are just taking the spots of departed DT Trevor Laws and DE Juqua Parker. But DT Antonio Dixon is back in the mix after recovering from his torn triceps, and the Birds also like Cedric Thornton, an undrafted free agent who spent most of last season on the practice squad.
"[Cox] and Vinny can be extremely special, if they set their minds to it," Tapp said. "It's a good feeling. We can come at other teams in waves. Everybody on our defensive line, from top to bottom, can get the job done."
Defensive tackle Mike Patterson, still making it back from offseason surgery to untangle blood vessels in his brain, worked out on the side with Colt Anderson, the safety recovering from knee surgery. Patterson said it would be up to Eagles coach Andy Reid to say whether Patterson will be ready for training camp in 2 months, but he said: "I have a feeling we'll be ready to go. It'll be exciting and we'll see what happens" . . . The 90-man roster is at 87 after the Birds trimmed wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad and running back Graig Cooper. There's no hurry to name replacements; as a source close to the situation confirmed, the expanded 90-man limit is handy if you have a bunch of injuries, but if you're reasonably healthy, there just aren't enough reps for everyone.