Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters was not with the Eagles on Tuesday for their organized team activity (OTA).
All OTAs are voluntary, which head coach Chip Kelly emphasized after practice, so Peters can’t be fined for his absence. Kelly said Peters isn’t injured and that he knows where Peters is, but Kelly didn’t provide any other insight to explain why Peters wasn’t there.
Kelly didn’t seem annoyed that Peters, who missed all of last season to recover from two tears of the same Achilles tendon, wasn’t at practice. He curiously acknowledged that Peters didn’t attend last week’s OTA, which isn’t consistent with what the media was told last week. Several players had their travel delayed by severe weather last Monday, but reporters were told that all of the players who missed Monday’s practice were back by Tuesday.
Another, more ominous absence was safety Kenny Phillips, who spent the practice inside the trainer’s room. Kelly wasn’t very forthcoming with injury-related specifics but said Phillips’ knee was the reason that the safety missed practice.
Phillips, through a team spokesperson, said his absence on the field was precautionary. The 26-year-old former first-round pick of the Giants also confirmed that he's easing up on the left knee that underwent microfracture surgery in 2009, a procedure that cut his season season short after two games. He missed nine games last year with what the Giants said was an MCL injury. Another source close to Phillips said the safety is fine and the time off is nothing major.
Given his history of knee problems, it's safe to be curious about Phillips' ability to hold up. Kelly's practices are fast paced and players get more reps than usual because Kelly runs so many plays in practice. Phillips hasn’t worked with the first-team defense in any of the practices that were open to the media. Nate Allen and newcomer Patrick Chung continued to man the two starting safety spots.
The Eagles signed Phillips to a team-friendly one-year deal early in free agency with no guaranteed money. Phillips’ contract is an $850,000 base salary and $1 million roster bonus.
When asked if Phillips had suffered a setback, Kelly quickly responded, “I don’t ask questions. They just tell me who’s going [to practice] and who’s not going.” Later, Kelly had said he doesn’t “know what the protocol is” for discussing injuries, another indication that the new head coach plans to be very elusive about injuries. As head coach, Kelly is the one who determines protocol. Nobody should believe that he doesn’t know the health status of one of his players, especially a potential starter.
Without Peters and with another change at guard, the first-team offensive line looked much different from the ones reporters had observed at the first two open practices.
Second-year pro Dennis Kelly, who had been the starter at right tackle, filled Peters’ void on the left side, clearing the way for first-round pick Lane Johnson to move up to right tackle. At left guard, newcomer Allen Barbre ran with the first team while Evan Mathis remained out to recover from ankle surgery (see story). Danny Watkins had been taking the first-team reps at left guard. Dallas Reynolds continued to sub for center Jason Kelce, who won’t be recovered enough from major knee surgery to practice before training camp.
Kelly downplayed Barbre’s insertion at left guard over Watkins, a former first-round pick, saying that he and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland are just “rolling people through.”
“Just like I said the last time we talked about it, I wouldn’t make much of who is playing with the first group and who is playing with the second group,” Kelly said.