Arrelious Benn had 59 catches in his first three years with Tampa Bay. (AP)
He was physically gone for a week. Mentally, he was here all along.
Arrelious Benn, the former second-round pick of the Buccaneers, returned to Eagles training camp practice Sunday, nine days after he tweaked his knee during the first full-team practice of camp.
“Got out there and knocked a little of the rust off,” Benn said. “I feel like I’m where I need to be mentally but the physical part is going to take a few days.
“I’m almost there. Got through a whole practice, so that tells you a lot.”
Benn said he was supposed to take Sunday’s practice at the NovaCare Complex gingerly. But once he got out there, the plan changed.
“I was supposed to hold back and do less than I did today, but I just couldn’t,” he said.
Since Benn left early a week ago Friday, the first day of full-team practice, Sunday was his first full practice of camp.
“It was frustrating, but I’m a veteran and I know how to deal with it,” he said. “I’m glad it happened early, rather than getting ready for the Washington Redskins.”
Head coach Chip Kelly liked how Benn was able to step right in at practice Sunday despite missing a week of work.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “You expect some rust, to be honest with you. I thought he was really good from a mental standpoint.
“He missed some insertion time because, obviously, he was out. We can't stop insertion just because one guy is out. We called things today he had never run in practice before that he really picked up.”
Benn said that’s just his experience and knowledge of the offense coming through.
“I was still out here watching practice as far as mental reps so I wasn’t behind on it,” he said. “Going into my fourth year so I pretty much know how to handle things like this when I haven’t been in practice.”
Benn was the 39th overall pick in the 2010 draft and the fourth wide receiver taken. But he battled injuries throughout his Tampa career and caught just 59 passes for 862 yards and five touchdowns before getting released.
With Jeremy Maclin out for the year and Riley Cooper on an extended leave of absence, Benn suddenly becomes the Eagles’ third-most experienced receiver, behind DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant.
“He’s a big, physical target,” Kelly said. “He’s also really good on [special teams]. Having that versatility, having your receivers that can help on special teams, is a big help for us.”
Russell Shepard, an impressive undrafted rookie from LSU, ran with the first offense Sunday opposite DeSean Jackson.
It will be interesting to see if Benn works his way into first-team reps as he gets his conditioning back.
“I’m going into my fourth year,” he said. “It’s football. Talent over everything is going to show.
“If I stay healthy, I’ll be all right.”