The groin injury Nolan Carroll suffered in Eagles practice more than two weeks ago really came at an annoying time.
Most camp observers would agree that Carroll, an under-the-radar free-agent signing in the offseason, had done plenty to distinguish himself as one of the defense’s top early performers. Seemed like Carroll came up with at least one pass breakup per day in the scrimmages.
If he was truly pushing Bradley Fletcher for the left cornerback spot, Carroll certainly had stated his case.
Then he got hurt.
“Not just the fact that I was having good practices,” he said, “but it was leading up to the [first preseason] game. That’s what I was looking forward to, playing in the game.”
Instead, the tightness Carroll felt near the end of an Aug. 3 open practice at the Linc sidelined him for the opener against the Bears and lingered, causing him to miss Friday’s preseason game against the Patriots.
But on Monday he returned as a full participant in practice. Carroll said he went through every drill, wasn’t limited in any capacity and fully expects to make his preseason debut Thursday night against the Steelers at the Linc.
“It was cool today, man,” Carroll said. “I did everything today. It felt good.”
The prolonged absence interrupted what had been an excellent camp for the former Dolphins cornerback. Carroll, who raised some eyebrows during the OTAs, showed the same knack for getting his hands on passes and disrupting offensive timing during the first week in camp that he showed in the spring.
His skill set seemed like a perfect marriage with Billy Davis’ press coverage scheme.
But in the two weeks that he missed, Carroll not only lost valuable reps in his push to unseat Fletcher but also missed out on getting the live-game experience of playing under the new rules emphasis.
And the Eagles found out -- the hard way -- what would happen if they didn’t have Carroll. Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh both benefited from Carroll’s absence by getting reps, and each struggled miserably when given the chance.
The Bears picked on Carmichael in the season opener and Marsh was on the wrong side of three Patriots passing touchdowns Friday night.
“It was frustrating,” Carroll said. “Just the fact that you don’t want to miss time during camp. You want to continue every day to just work on improving every day. The fact that I was missing time, I couldn’t get to do that stuff, as far as getting the game reps and getting the game condition.
“That’s stuff that I missed, which was frustrating. Thursday is when I get the chance to get it back. Go out there and just try to play full speed.”