BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Sitting around in his Sicklerville, N.J., home wasnt going to accomplish anything. So finally, Danny Watkins told agent Joe Panos it was time for him to get into training camp.
Watkins contract impasse ended Monday evening when the 26-year-old rookie offensive lineman, the Eagles first-round pick in April, agreed to terms of a four-year contract worth 7.937 million with just over 4 million guaranteed.
The numbers were agreed on days ago. The sticking point was whether the Eagles would guarantee the final year of the deal.
Panos demanded it.
The Eagles refused.
The Eagles won.
I dont know much about the business aspect of football, said Watkins, who grew up playing hockey in Western Canada. I trusted (Panos), and I left it in his hands and, you know, he asked me if I was OK with it, and I said, Yeah, I would like to get in there.
Watkins, penciled in by head coach Andy Reid on draft day as the opening-day right guard, missed the first five days and 10 practices of training camp at Lehigh University.
The Eagles are off Tuesday the first of the days off required under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement but Watkins will be on the practice fields when the Eagles reconvene Wednesday morning.
Oddly, he is not allowed to participate in any practices, team meetings, film study or sessions with his coaches. That will have to wait till Wednesday.
This is a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders, thats for sure, Watkins said as he drove up to Lehigh Monday evening. Ever since I got (to the Philadelphia area) a few weeks ago, Ive been chomping at the bit to get in here. I understand theres a business aspect to football. Its something Ive never cared for and dont know much about. Im just glad this is over with and we can get rolling.
Watkins is starting only his fifth year playing organized football. He didnt start until the fall of 2007, when he entered Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif., to study firefighting science.
The coach urged him to come out for football, two years later he was starting for Baylor, and two years after that, the Eagles made him the 23rd pick in the draft.
But because hes so new to the game, the lockout was particularly difficult for Watkins. With no OTAs and no minicamps, no contact with his coaches, he felt himself falling behind every day.
Ive been concerned throughout the whole lockout process, he said. This (reporting late) definitely adds into that as well. Ive had the playbook. Ive been going through that as much as I could. That was definitely something I was taking into consideration.
If Watkins struggles to pick up new offensive line coach Howard Mudds system or adjust to the NFL game, the Eagles have some options. Recently acquired veteran Evan Mathis could play right guard. So could Mike McGlynn.
But Reid clearly wants Watkins to be the guy. Well find out Wednesday morning if hell start out right away with the first group. Opening day against the Rams in St. Louis is less than six weeks away.
Can he be ready by then?
I hope so, he said. I only played for four years, and I felt I picked up the sport very good. I dont think Id be where I am now if I wasnt a quick learner. Im determined and dedicated to learn this as quick as I can and put all the hard work I can into it.
Watkins said hes not taking a starting spot for granted, even though Reid declared him the starter back in April.
I have to come in and compete, he said. Nothing is guaranteed that Im going to be a starter, by any means. Thats the coachs decision, not mine.
Ive been here for, you know, two weeks, and Ive been chomping at the bit to get in. Im eager to learn. Itd be an honor and privilege to get in front of Michael Vick and let him work his magic.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.