Recovered From Injuries, Ron Brooks and Joe Walker Make Presence Felt

Cornerback Ron Brooks turned to a gaggle of reporters standing beyond the end zone and flashed his infectious and contagious smile. 

Then he had some fun.  

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"You see that?" Brooks shouted to the group after linebacker Joe Walker jumped up to snag an interception above cornerback Randall Goforth. "Make sure you say [Goforth] got out-jumped by a linebacker!"

In the span of about 10 seconds, Brooks and Walker, both recovering from significant injuries last season, re-announced their presence on the Eagles' practice field. 

During the first two days of training camp, they have been among the small group of veterans allowed to practice and both have shown flashes they might be getting back to the players they once were. It has been a long road back - both said the hardest part was being away from their teammates for months during rehab. 

"The big step is when you come out here and you've got to react to somebody else," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said after Tuesday's practice. "You have to react to a wide receiver. You have to react to a tight end. In my mind, that's when they can put the injury behind them, when they've got to think about things like that rather than their injury. I think it's been good for those guys to be here these last couple days because when the vets - when the whole full roster gets here, they've already sort of put that live rep away. Next up for those guys is contact, and that won't come for a few days."

Walker, a seventh-round linebacker last season, tore his ACL during the preseason. Brooks, now in his sixth season, tore his quad tendon in the sixth game of the 2016 season. 

Both players expect they'll be full participants in training camp practices even when the rest of the veterans get on the field Thursday. 

"I'm here, man," Brooks said. "I've been out here full-go with the young guys and I don't expect anything different when the vets show up." 

"I feel like I'll be full-go," Walker said. "I don't know what their plan is, but I feel great."

Brooks, 28, has been smiling a bunch during the first two days of training camp. That's really nothing new. He has always been the type of player to have fun with his teammates, get loud on the field and blast music in the locker room. 

But even Brooks admitted he's having more fun now. 

"I've been playing this game since I was 4," Brooks said. "I definitely love the game. 

"But just having that injury and not knowing whether or not I'd be able to make a full comeback or not and just going through the mental gymnastics of an injury like that, I think it helps me have a lot more fun now. I'm happy to be back and I'm just happy to do what I do."

Before his injury in Week 7 in Minnesota, Brooks was a big part of Schwartz's defense last season. Thanks to his time with Schwartz in Buffalo, Brooks used his familiarity to his advantage and became the team's nickel corner, playing 228 of 299 defensive snaps (76.3 percent) through the first five games of the season. It wasn't until Brooks went down that Malcolm Jenkins was forced to take over as the slot cornerback, which put the whole secondary out of whack. 

Last year was the first time in his career that Brooks had a chance to play significant time on defense. He's hoping he'll be able to carve out a sizable role on this year's team, too. 

"For me, I feel like I was taking advantage of my opportunity last year and it got cut short," Brooks said. "I'm back out here to establish myself in this defense, help out and do whatever I can." 

Brooks on Tuesday wore a slight brace sleeve on his leg but claimed the injury is no longer an issue. While coaches have tried to limit his reps, Brooks said the competitor in him won't allow it. 

"Everything I'm doing, I'm doing as if I was never hurt," he said. "I can't go out there and practice and try to baby the injury. I have to go through it as if I was in a game." 

By the time Brooks started hollering to chide Goforth, Walker was already out of earshot. He did hear the ribbing by the end zone; he was too busy sprinting down the field with the football. 

As for the jumping interception snag? 

"I surprised myself a little bit," said Walker, who added that he hadn't jumped like that in a while. 

There were just two players selected after Walker in the 2016 draft, but the deep seventh-round pick made an immediate impact with the Eagles. Eventually, he rose to be the team's backup middle linebacker behind Jordan Hicks. It wasn't until Walker went down that the Eagles signed veteran Stephen Tulloch as a backup. 

The Eagles added Nate Gerry in the fifth round of this year's draft, but he's been working mostly at the outside linebacker spots. That means despite a year away, there's still plenty of opportunity for Walker to regain his backup middle linebacker spot. 

But he claimed he's not worried about that. Instead, he's just happy to be back on the field, where he isn't wearing any type of brace on his surgically repaired knee. 

"I feel great," Walker said. "I think every day I'm going to feel a little bit better. The first day was a little rough. I had to break a little rust away. But felt better today. Hopefully, feel better tomorrow." 

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