PHILADELPHIA - Until Thursday night's preseason opener, the highlight of Eagles quarterback Trent Edwards' summer had been serving as a volunteer during the U.S. Open golf championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in late June.
He spent the first two weeks of Eagles training camp mostly standing around while Michael Vick, Mike Kafka and rookie Nick Foles took all the reps.
When he finally got a chance to leave the sideline in the fourth quarter of Thursday's game against Pittsburgh, Edwards delivered. The free-agent pickup completed 12-of-20 passes for 106 yards with one touchdown and set up Alex Henery's game-winning field goal in a 24-23 victory over the Steelers.
"I'm not one of those people that gets frustrated," Edwards, 28, said. "I've had conversations with our offensive coordinator (Marty Mornhinweg) and I know my role. I completely understand the situation. It doesn't matter how many reps I get. At the end of the game, I still want the ball in my hands with a chance to win."
Foles, the Eagles' third-round draft pick out of the University of Arizona, also played well. Meanwhile, Kafka struggled, thereby creating the ever-popular quarterback controversy.
There is no doubt that Vick is the starter, but his main backup has yet to be determined. Kafka, the frontrunner, threw a costly interception against the Steelers. Foles completed 6-of-10 passes for 144 yards and displayed a strong arm while throwing two touchdown passes. Edwards showed poise while guiding the fourth-string offense to a touchdown and field goal in his two possessions.
"You know me and you have been around me long enough to know that everything is wide open," coach Andy Reid said. "I keep it wide open at all positions. Whoever is playing the best is going to play. We keep it nice and simple that way."
The Eagles hope Vick will be able to stay healthy enough to play in all 16 regular-season games, but given his history - he's only played one full season in his career - that doesn't seem likely. The Eagles got a scare against the Steelers when Vick ran to the sidelines clutching his left (passing) hand after banging it on center Jason Kelce's helmet early in the second quarter.
X rays taken at halftime on Vick's thumb were negative and he was able to grip a football by the end of the game. He's expected to be able to practice when the Eagles return for their final few days at Lehigh today.
"When I first hit it, I heard some pop and I didn't know if it was from my finger or just from the collision," Vick said. "But I lost feeling in it for a second. I was just hoping it wasn't anything severe and I was just praying that the season didn't get off to a horrible start. It just swelled up a little bit, but it feels a lot better."
Kafka opened training camp as the No. 2 quarterback and was among the standouts in the first two weeks, but he never found his rhythm against the Steelers. The third-year veteran completed 5-of-9 passes for 31 yards and hit defensive end Al Woods in the stomach with a pass. Woods returned the interception 53 yards to set up a field goal.
Foles got the fans' attention in the third quarter with touchdown passes on back-to-back plays. He found undrafted rookie wide receiver Damaris Johnson roaming behind the secondary and hit him for a 70-yard TD. On the Eagles' next offensive play, he found wide receiver Mardy Gilyard for a 43-yard TD.
"It was exciting," Foles said. "It was my first time getting to be in an NFL stadium. I was definitely nervous at first, but once I got on the field I tried to supress it. Once I got in the huddle, I was OK. I was with guys I've been working with for a while and that made me more comfortable."
Edwards didn't have that comfort zone.
When he trotted onto the field and reached the huddle, he was looking at a collection of undrafted rookies who have little chance of making the Eagles' regular-season roster, most of whom had never caught even one of his few passes during training camp.
No matter. The former Buffalo and Jacksonville quarterback capped a 60-yard drive with a 16-yard TD pass to wide receiver Jamel Hamler that gave the Eagles a 21-20 lead. After the Steelers went ahead 23-21 on a field goal, Edwards took over again with no timeouts and 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining. He completed passes to Hamler, wide receiver McKay Jacobson and former Philadelphia Soul wideout Tiger Jones during a 46-yard drive that set up Henery's 51-yard field goal.
"There were a lot of new faces out there," Edward said with a smile. "But I've been in this league long enough to know what to do. I knew to trust my offense line and I knew where my receivers were going to be. It was very exciting. If you can't get excited about playing in the NFL, you're in the wrong business."
Extra points: The Eagles had off Friday and return to Lehigh today with a walkthrough at 8:15 a.m. and a full practice at 2:45 p.m. Defensive backs will sign autographs at approximately 5 p.m.
The Eagles will also be at Lehigh on Monday and Tuesday before ending their 16th year there. After an off day Wednesday, they will resume training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. Those workouts are closed to the public.
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