Not in College Anymore, Donnel Pumphrey Can't Find an Inch in Eagles Debut

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Donnel Pumphrey isn't in the Mountain West Conference anymore. 

If that wasn't clear to the Eagles' fourth-round pick before Thursday night's kickoff, throughout the 24-9 loss it began to crystallize. 

While Pumphrey spent his four years at San Diego State terrorizing opponents on his way to becoming the all-time leading rusher in FBS history, he couldn't find an inch on Thursday night in the preseason opener at Lambeau Field. 

"These guys, they fly to the ball," Pumphrey said. "That's why they're paid to play."

Against the Packers, Pumphrey had nine touches (four carries, five catches) for just 17 yards. 

The Eagles tried to get Pumphrey involved on the ground and through the air but nothing seemed to work. His longest play of the day was a seven-yard reception.  

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"That's one of those things where the game speed is completely different," Pumphrey said. "In college, stuff like that, you can break those. In the NFL, you see guys, they stay square and they didn't fall for certain moves."

In addition to the rough debut on offense, Pumphrey also had some struggles as a punt returner. 

On the first punt that came his way, the rookie probably should have signaled for a fair catch. Instead, he needed to make a jumping catch and was taken down immediately, although he avoided a disaster. 

On the next punt, he signaled for a fair catch but muffed it and it rolled away. He was lucky to jump back on it. On the fumble, Pumphrey said he took his eyes off the ball instead of looking it into his hands. 

The Eagles are trying to turn Pumphrey into a punt returner, a role he didn't have at San Diego State outside of practice. He could eventually take over that role for Darren Sproles, who is entering the twilight of his career. 

"It's definitely different but I'm just definitely trying to get used to everything, get used to the speed of just playing professional ball," Pumphrey said. "Our guys did a great job of blocking. I just need to do a better job of catching the ball, really look it in and make my move."

A little later in the game, Pumphrey did have a nice punt return but it was called back thanks to a penalty on linebacker Joe Walker. Pumphrey said it still felt good to break one. 

"He played well," veteran teammate LeGarrette Blount said. "He just has to continue to learn how to adjust to this league. I think he got the jitters out. I think he's done a pretty good job so far in camp. He has a tremendous upside. His potential is high." 

No, it wasn't a great debut for Pumphrey, but after the game, he said it was actually fun to be in his first game. Aside from some tightness in his hamstring, he felt pretty good. 

He'll have a game in another week to try to find success. Because as he found out on Thursday, his Mountain West days are long gone. 

"Something I tell a lot of the guys out here: It's a fast league and once you get into the game, you'll know right away that it's not college anymore," Blount said. "Some guys adjust faster than others. And I think he's going to adjust pretty quick." 

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