WRs Maclin, Smith return to Eagles practice

WRs Maclin, Smith return to Eagles practice
August 27, 2011, 4:24 pm
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A couple hundred receptions returned to practice Saturday.

Jeremy Maclin, who caught 70 passes last year, and Steve Smith, who caught 107 in 2009, practiced Saturday for the first time this year, the Eagles announced Saturday morning.

Maclin practiced for the first time since spending five months this summer battling a mystery illness that doctors were never able to diagnose. Maclins symptoms loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, fevers disappeared earlier this summer, and last week doctors examining a biopsy taken through a laproscopic procedure finally ruled out anything serious.

Head coach Andy Reid said both Maclin and Smith took very few reps in Saturdays practice, which was indoors and closed to the media.

Were just taking it day by day, literally, just to see how they do, Reid said. If they make it through the evening fine without any problems or setbacks, then well add more onto it tomorrow. I cant tell you the date right now on either one when theyll be ready to play.

The Eagles formally removed Maclin from the Reserve-Non-Football-Related-Illness list and removed Smith from the Physically Unable to Perform list. Both now count against the active roster, which sits at 87 and must be trimmed to 80 by Tuesday.

Once a player is removed from one of the reserve lists and practices, he cannot go back on the list. That is a strong sign the Eagles believe both Maclin and Smith will both be ready very early in the season and hopefully by opening day at St. Louis.

Maclin is confident he will be.

Yeah, theres no doubt about that, he said.

If this was a regular season game coming up this Thursday, I would play in that.

Whether Maclin will play Thursdays preseason finale against the Jets is uncertain, but he doesnt feel its necessary. He said hes in good shape but just has to get used to running routes again.

I think that as far as getting all that work done, I think I can get that work done in practice getting extra reps by myself, Maclin said. I dont think I need to, but it wouldnt hurt.

Smith practiced for the first time as an Eagle and the first time since he underwent microfracture surgery on his knee on Dec. 21. He got hurt while playing for the Giants against the Vikings eight days earlier in a game played at Ford Field in Detroit.

Smith hopes to play against the Rams Im feeling good, and as long as we have no setbacks, thats what Im shooting for but it sounds more like wishful thinking.

He said doesnt think hell play Thursday I mean, I just started practicing and wont be 100 percent for another four to six weeks.

Just because Im feeling good right now, we dont want to overdo it, he said.

Even if I get a couple plays against St. Louis shoot, Ill go block a couple times just to get out there, Ill be happy.

That's all he'll probably get. Smith admitted he still needs time to get in football shape, in sync with Michael Vick and the offense itself.

Its an adjustment. Hes a great quarterback. The lefty is a little different just gotta watch the ball all the way in, Smith said.

Ive got the basics of the offense down, but when I hear it in the huddle called fast, I still kind of freeze up a little bit. So I think Im going to be asking Mike a lot what I have leaving the huddle.

Regardless, the additions are huge for the Eagles, whose top three receivers in the preseason DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper caught only six passes in the three preseason games.

Yeah man, Im looking forward to getting out there with my guys and helping the team in any way I can, Maclin said, kind of resuming my role again and getting this thing rolling and getting where we need to be.

There was a point not too long ago where the immediate futures of both Maclin and Smith were unknown.

Doctors were unable to diagnose the cause of Maclins fatigue, loss of appetite and flu-like symptoms throughout the summer, and Maclin said doctors told him there was a chance he had cancer. That was finally ruled out a week ago Wednesday after doctors analyzed the final tests Maclin underwent in his hometown of St. Louis while the Eagles were at training camp at Lehigh.

Smith signed with the Eagles on Aug. 10, the same day his former head coach, Tom Coughlin, told reporters he faced a long haul getting back to action after surgery on his right knee. But Smith told reporters in Philadelphia he disagreed with Coughlins assessment and said he felt he had a chance to be back by opening day which will come less than nine months after his surgery.

Maclins 125 career receptions are sixth-most in NFL history by a player before his 23rd birthday, and his 1,726 receiving yards are fifth-most. Smiths 107 receptions in 2009 are a Giants franchise record.

With Maclin and Smith both back practicing and presumably available for the regular-season opener against the Rams on Sept. 11, the Eagles arguably have the NFLs best wide receiving corps with Jackson, Maclin, Smith, Avant and Cooper.

You just keep throwing it to everybody, and when you get the opportunity, just catch the ball, Vick said. I cant figure out right now what the distribution is going to be, but when your numbers called, make the most of it.

Jackson and Smith are both Pro Bowlers, Maclin was sixth in the NFL in TD catches last year, Avant is considered one of the NFLs top slot receivers, and Cooper is a promising second-year pro.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com and Andy Schwartz at aschwartz@comcastsportsnet.com.