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Richmond hopes to take the field for Eagles -- finally

| Wednesday, June 14, 2006

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Eagles linebacker Greg Richmond hopes this is the year he finally gets onto the field.

Richmond, who signed with Philadelphia as a free agent in 2004, spent his rookie season on the practice squad and missed last season recovering from back surgery. When the Eagles open training camp in late July, he will put on pads for the first time in almost two years.

The last time he did so• Richmond remembers it well. "Aug. 13, 2004," he said. It was the Eagles' preseason opener against the Patriots. He sustained a knee injury and hasn't played a game since.

Two weeks before training camp began last year, he had just finished jogging at home in Oklahoma City when his foot began to ache. He said he called the Eagles and was told to get back, and he drove 23 hours to Philadelphia despite the pain.

Richmond underwent surgery on Aug. 15 to repair a herniated disc in his back and spent the rest of the season with the numerous other injured Eagles who were rehabbing their respective injuries.

"It was disappointing, but I just have to put that in the past," said Richmond, who turns 25 next month. "It's only going to build character and determination. I'm just looking forward to this upcoming year, and whatever happened last year, it's done and over with."

Richmond said he couldn't pinpoint exactly when or how the injury occurred and said it was "something that happened over time." But now, he said, he's 100 percent.

"It's going great," Richmond said. "It was a long offseason for me, just getting with (Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder) and all the other guys that were on injured reserve. We just stayed around and just pushed each other so we can all be in this same position to get ready for the '06 season."

At Oklahoma State, Richmond (6-1, 235) played both defensive end and linebacker. He finished his college career with 21 sacks, third on the school's all-time list.

With the Eagles, he has learned both outside linebacker positions but is currently focusing on the strongside, one of the few positions on the Eagles' defense that is up for grabs. Richmond will compete for time with incumbent starter Dhani Jones, second-year pro Dedrick Roper and rookie Chris Gocong, the Eagles' third-round pick.

"That's good competition," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "We'll see how it falls out. You can put them in a pile and the strong survive."

The Eagles conclude their final offseason minicamp on Thursday. The next time they practice as a team will be in training camp, and that's when the competition will begin in earnest when the players participate in full contact drills.

"All of the instincts and the football part will take care of itself," Richmond said. "When you're physically unable to do things, you can take care of the mental side, so that's one of the things that I really focused on."

"We kind of know what Greg is," Johnson said. "He's been a very physical player since we first got him. He looked good the first time we had him two years ago as far as being a physical player and a good special teams player, too. So we'll know when the pads come on."

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