|Kearse returns after severe knee injury|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 14 May 2007 13:26|
Back on the football field after a severe knee injury ended his season and temporarily cast doubt on his future last year, a leaner Kearse stood out during the Philadelphia Eagles' first minicamp. While many offensive and defensive linemen are big and sloppy, the muscular Kearse reported in better shape than ever.
The three-time Pro Bowl defensive end said his body fat is an astounding 1 percent. He's 241 pounds, down from his usual playing weight of close to 260. He plans to add at least 10 pounds before the season by simply doing less cardiovascular work.
``Too skinny? No. I'm too fit,'' Kearse said Monday. ``I did too much cardio.''
Kearse was off to his best start - 3 1/2 sacks in two games - in three seasons with the Eagles before he badly sprained multiple knee ligaments in overtime of a loss to the New York Giants in Week 2. The injury initially was thought to be career-threatening, but turned out to be less serious. Still, Kearse had a long, arduous road to recovery. Along the way, he received a lot of encouragement from teammates who had similar injuries.
``It's tough when you've been doing something for as long as I have,'' Kearse said. ``You've got to heal mentally so that you're not taking it easy. You've got to have it in your mind that you're going to be tough enough. Mentally, I'm 100 percent. Physically, I'm 90-95 percent right now.''
Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson didn't expect to have Kearse for the three-day minicamp that concluded Monday. He was pleased with the star pass rusher's progress.
``He's far more advanced than we thought he would be,'' Johnson said. ``He looks good to me.''
A first-round pick by Tennessee in 1999, Kearse's unique combination of speed, quickness and strength earned him the nickname ``The Freak.'' He quickly established himself as one of the NFL's premier sack artists, recording 36 sacks in his first three seasons. He went to the Pro Bowl three times and twice earned All-Pro honors. Kearse had just 11 1/2 sacks in his last two injury-filled seasons with the Titans, then signed a $66 million, eight-year contract with Philadelphia in 2004.
Kearse played a key role in helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl in his first season. Though his sack totals were down - he had 7 1/2 sacks in each of his first two seasons - Kearse was a disruptive force who often drew double-teams and freed up teammates to get sacks.
``I feel like my body has had a lot of time to heal up,'' Kearse said. ``I feel good about it. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off.''
The Eagles have plenty of depth along their defensive line with Kearse, third-year pro Trent Cole, veterans Darren Howard and Juqua Thomas and rookie Victor Abiamiri. Johnson likes to rotate his ends to keep them fresh late in games.
``You would like to. It's a long season,'' Johnson said. ``We would like to keep 10 or 11 linemen, rotating eight in the game. We will have pretty good depth.''