PHILADELPHIA – Back in April, Matt Barkley sat through the first two days of the NFL draft waiting and waiting and waiting for a call that never came.
He watched one quarterback go in each of the first three rounds: EJ Manuel to Buffalo in the first, Geno Smith to the Jets in the second and Mike Glennon to Tampa Bay in the third. All three of them have been named starting quarterbacks as rookies.
Barkley, taken by the Eagles with the first pick of the fourth round, has been inactive for all five games. That could change Sunday, when the Eagles face Glennon and the Bucs in Tampa.
“One play away,” Barkley said. “In my eyes, it’s just another week. The fact that I’m getting [practice] reps with the first team is just a bonus. I’ve prepared the previous weeks of the season like I am playing.”
Before every game, Barkley is out on the field with quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. He throws to players who will be inactive, often tight end Emil Igwenagu. It is a way of keeping Barkley in the rhythm of practicing all week and building toward game-day action.
“I get 90 or 100 balls in,” Barkley said. “It’s just more reps.”
Barkley started every game during his high school and college careers. It is an adjustment, and not a happy one, to be the understudy to the understudy. It must be especially tough to watch a relatively unheralded player like Glennon get drafted ahead of him and become a starter.
But Barkley was hampered through the combine and evaluation process by a throwing shoulder that wasn’t right after being separated late in the 2012 season at USC. It wasn’t right, he said, until late in the preseason.
“My shoulder, I didn’t think it would take that long to get healthy,” Barkley said. “It was really hurting during OTAs. In camp, it hurt a little bit, too. Right now, it’s the strongest it’s been all year. I’m getting more power on the ball.”
If he’d been healthy in the winter and spring, who knows? He could be starting for the Bucs against the Eagles Sunday. As it is, he’s been waiting his turn, watching Vick and Foles and spending Sunday mornings being tutored by Lazor.
This Sunday, he could get one step closer to the field.
“It’s a little more exciting than a normal week,” Barkley said. “But hopefully Mike gets back soon.”