Always willing to hit, Chris Pantale hopes to stick as Eagles' fullback

Always willing to hit, Chris Pantale hopes to stick as Eagles' fullback

Fullbacks need to be tough, nasty, aggressive.

They need to relish contact most players run from. They need to seek out the shots other skill players try to avoid. They need to embrace a brutal and thankless job that paves the way for others.

Two weeks into training camp, Chris Pantale is still trying to prove to the Eagles he’s that player.  

“I wanted to show that I was up to the challenge and willing to bring the physical mentality,” Pantale said. “I hope I’ve done so, so far. The [preseason opener on Thursday] will obviously be a big test. I just wanted to show that I wasn’t afraid to mix it up and put my face into someone’s chest.”

Pantale, 26, is listed as a tight end on the Eagles roster, but in Doug Pederson’s west coast offense has been lining up, at times, as a lead blocker since OTAs. Throughout the spring, the Eagles’ coaching staff kept saying it wouldn’t know if Pantale could play fullback until they saw him in pads.

Pads went on over a week ago.

“Yeah, [Pantale is] doing well,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “There are two things you look for when you take a tight end and put him in the backfield. The one thing you look for, first and foremost, is, is he nasty? Is he aggressive? Will he go after it? Because when you play that position, you’ve got to be physical; you’ve got to love contact. And he’s shown that.

“Secondly, for tight ends who are always playing on the line of scrimmage, it’s a different feel from the backfield – how to insert; how to find your [line] backer; having the instinct to see it. You almost have to see it like a tailback, because the tailback is following you most of the time. He’s really shown good vision in that. So, on both of those fronts, which are very key, he’s been doing very well.”

Playing fullback isn’t exactly something new for Pantale, who said he’s always had a very physical mindset as a football player. He was asked to do a little lead blocking at Boston College and some with the Jets, who ran a similar offense, in 2013 and 2014.

But this is the most he’s ever done it.

Sure, Trey Burton has done some lead blocking during training camp, but he’s clearly a bigger threat in the pass game and it’s Pantale who has been getting first-team reps at fullback.

Pantale was signed to the Eagles practice squad last September and spent the rest of the season there. Had Chip Kelly not been fired and Doug Pederson not been hired, Pantale knows he wouldn’t have this opportunity.

Kelly’s system didn’t utilize the fullback position, so if Kelly were still the head coach, Pantale’s odds of making the roster would be incredibly slim. It seems pretty clear Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton are the top three tight ends on the team. Without this offense, there would be no reason to keep a fourth.

Even with the fullback position, he’s no lock to make the squad. But he has a decent shot, especially if he proves himself when the preseason games start.

“I understand my role on this team,” Pantale said. “If I’m gonna make it, I have to be a tough guy, mix it up in there.”

Eagles injury update: Corey Clement already out of his sling

Eagles injury update: Corey Clement already out of his sling

His right arm already out of the sling, Corey Clement moved his arms up and down and waved to a few news cameras gathered around his locker to show off his range of motion. 

The Eagles’ running back on Wednesday afternoon was breathing a sigh of relief. 

The shoulder injury Clement suffered on the opening kickoff in the second half Sunday is not serious and he says he’s day-to-day. The sling he wore for two days was just a precautionary measure from the Eagles’ trainers. 

I’m out of the sling already,” Clement said, “so I’m really trying to keep calm, realizing that it’s still early in the season. … I know I’ll be back out there soon.

Clement is among a group of Eagles — Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Dallas Goedert included — who were listed as day-to-day by head coach Doug Pederson earlier on Wednesday, even though none of them practiced. 

Wednesday’s injury report was an estimation because they held a walkthrough: 

Did not practice: Clement (shoulder), Goedert (calf), Jackson (abdomen), Jeffery (calf), Tim Jernigan (foot), Jordan Mailata (back) 

Limited: Derek Barnett (shoulder), Fletcher Cox (toe), Johnathan Cyprien (knee), Rudy Ford (hamstring), Nathan Gerry (knee, calf), Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee)

Full: Nate Sudfeld (wrist)

On the play where Clement was hurt, on the opening kickoff in the second half on Sunday night, he actually fumbled away the football. It was a bad time for a fumble because Atlanta took over and quickly scored a touchdown to go up 17-6.

“I was surprised the damn ball came out,” Clement said. “I was like, ‘how the Hell does that happen?’ And then I didn’t pay attention to how close I was to the ground, so that shook me up a bit.”  

When Clement first hit the ground, he was worried because he landed on his right shoulder, the same one where he tore his labrum back in 2011 at Glassboro High School. 

This injury, he said, isn’t serious at all. 

“I don’t even know what it is,” Clement said, before waving to the cameras. “I got full motion, I’m fine. I’ll be back out there soon, no worries.”

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Eagles actually getting an important player back for a change

Eagles actually getting an important player back for a change

The Eagles have been losing players at an alarming rate. 

They’re about to get one back.

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said Wednesday he expects to be back for the Eagles’ game a week from Thursday against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Grugier-Hill, who started 10 games last year and was having a tremendous training camp, suffered a left knee sprain while making a tackle on Jordan Howard at practice on Aug. 3.

Considering how bad the injury looked — Kamu was carted off the practice field — it would be huge if Grugier-Hill winds up only missing three regular-season games.

Grugier-Hill participated in Wednesday’s walkthrough (he was listed as limited on the injury report), the first time he’s done any sort of team drills since he got hurt.

He’s hoping to do some work on Thursday when the Eagles return to their regular practice mode.

I just know I feel myself how I move how I feel, you know your body better than anyone else,” he said. “I think I’m there. We’re just going to give it a couple more days just to make sure, but I’m good, I’m ready.

Most likely, Grugier-Hill would be able to play this Sunday if the Eagles didn’t have two games in five days. Since that would be too much for a guy coming off a knee injury, it makes sense to keep him shut down Sunday at home against the Lions and give him an extra few days.

Grugier-Hill, 25, was primarily a special teamer in his first two years with the Eagles, with one defensive snap in 2016 and 85 in 2017. That increased to 328 last year, or more than 20 per game.

He’s also played 873 special teams snaps the last three years, a team-high 686 the last two years.

If he plays against the Packers, Grugier-Hill will have come back from a pretty serious knee sprain in 54 days.

I’ve had injuries before where I definitely came back too early but I made it work,” he said. “It’s just kind of the desire to be back. You want to be back out there with the guys, but it’s a fine line. You have to be smart about it.

With Grugier-Hill out, Nigel Bradham – coming off a foot injury of his own -- has played all 130 defensive snaps in the Eagles’ first two games.

That’s too much.

Zach Brown has played 78 and Nate Gerry 22.

What role he has on special teams and how many reps he can get on defense remains to be seen.

But just having a quick, athletic linebacker on the field in some role has to help.

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