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Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Familiar face returns to help Eagles at linebacker

By Dan Graziano

Posted by ESPN's Sal Paolantonio

PHILADELPHIA --With the Phillies winning their third straight National League East title, the Eagles could use a conventional feel-good story after weeks of strange happenings. And there in the back of the locker room Wednesday, in his old stall, was a very familiar face, the ever-popular Jeremiah Trotter, donning his shoulder pads, grinning from ear to ear at the notion of an improbable third tour of duty in midnight green.

Head coach Andy Reid said he brought Trotter back to provide some thump at middle linebacker. At 6-feet-2 and 260 pounds, Trotter provides some size missing since starter Stewart Bradley went down with a season-ending knee injury the first week of August.

But Trotter provides another important ingredient that can only be measured by the size of his heart: passion and leadership. Does he think he was brought back -- after two years out of the game -- to fill the leadership void left when Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins was allowed to leave via free agency for Denver?

"Definitely," said Trotter, who is in his 11th NFL season. "Absolutely, this is a young team, and sometimes you need some veteran leadership. And I don't have to say anything. I intend to lead by example."

Trotter said that when he walked into the locker room Monday for his first day with the team in two years, "it was like I never left. I didn't say a thing. I just went back to work."

Two stalls down from Trotter is Omar Gaither, who is 6-foot-2, 235 and has proved to be just too small to plug the middle in Stewart's absence -- the Eagles are giving up 106 yards rushing per game. That's 15th in the league, and will not be good enough once the schedule gets tougher and the New York Giants roll in Nov. 1.

Gaither still has a role, but it's mostly on passing downs. It will be Trotter's job to hold the line on first and second down -- unless, of course, offensive coordinators try to exploit Trotter by throwing the football.

Trotter said his reconstructed right knee, which initially forced him to retire, has been responding well. "No swelling -- feels good," Trotter said.

But Reid reminded reporters that Trotter has not played in a game yet. And that will be the true test.

"We pushed him to exhaustion and everything in a bent-knee position, something that would make that thing swell up if it was going to swell up and it didn't," Reid said. "But to tell you that this is a normal situation, no, this isn't a normal situation. This is unusual. I'm taking it week by week and I think he is, too. I think he's excited to be here and he brings the energy, not that we didn't have energy, but he brings additional energy."

Sal Paolantonio is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Philadelphia.