Sportswriter/columnist

Member of The Press sports staff since 1986, starting my 25th season as The Press Eagles' beat writer. Also cover boxing, MMA, golf, high school sports and everything else.

Jets Eagles Football

Philadelphia Eagles' Joe Callahan in action during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Joe Callahan’s football career has come full circle.

But the former NFL quarterback hopes to take another lap.

Since getting released by the Eagles in early September, the 2011 Holy Spirit High School graduate has spent this NFL season home in Absecon.

During the week, he stays in shape by working out on the same field where he started his football career with the Absecon Blue Devils of the Atlantic County Junior Football League.

Most of the time, Callahan is joined by Dan McNair, a 2010 Holy Spirit grad who was a standout wide receiver and kickoff returner for Albright College and now works for Harrah’s Atlantic City.

He spends Sundays in front of his TV, watching the Eagles and other NFL teams. His cellphone is always nearby, just in case a team wants to bring him in for a tryout.

“It’s tough to watch sometimes, knowing that I’ve been there,” Callahan said. “You think that you should be out there, doing just as well as the guys you’re watching.”

He was out there last season.

After Green Bay starter Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, Callahan was the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback behind Brett Hundley. The 6-foot-1, 216-pounder made his official NFL debut in the season finale against Detroit, completing 5 of 7 passes for 11 yards on the final series of a 35-11 loss to the Lions.

He had a good performance in the Eagles’ preseason finale against the New York Jets, completing 18 of 26 passes for 164 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He knew he had no shot of sticking with the Birds — Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld were shoo-ins to make the team — but hoped another team would offer him an opportunity.

He’s had a few chances.

Callahan, 25, has worked out with the New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.

In each case, he carried a backpack and duffel bag full of clothes.

“You always pack as if it’s going to be your last trip, that you’re going to get signed,” Callahan said. “I bring five or 10 outfits with me for different situations.”

To call them workouts is stretching it a bit, however. It’s more like football’s version of a casting call.

Monday is typically workout day for free agents. They gather on a practice field and get only a few minutes to try to convince the coaches they are worthy of a contract.

“Quarterbacks usually get 15 to 30 throws,” he said. “You’re out there for about 20 minutes, and then you hope for the best. Afterward, you get some sort of feedback and then they tell you, ‘We’ll be in touch.’ All the feedback I’ve gotten has been positive. They told me, ‘If we don’t sign you in the next few weeks, we’ll be signing you to a futures contract after the season.’ I hope they’re being honest.”

Callahan hoped for another opportunity this past week. He was watching the Eagles-Redskins game when Washington quarterback Colt McCoy suffered a broken leg. McCoy was making his first start in place of Alex Smith, who had a similar injury one week earlier.

Washington had signed free agent Mark Sanchez after a tryout two weeks ago and was now set to audition more quarterbacks. The Redskins wound up signing Josh Johnson, who hasn’t been in the league since 2013 and hasn’t thrown a pass since 2011.

“I really felt bad for Colt because he had waited a long time to get that opportunity,” Callahan said. “I was hoping the Redskins would call me, but I was told they wanted someone with more experience.”

If he isn’t signed soon, there could be another opportunity.

Negotiations are ongoing between the Arena Football League and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to bring an AFL franchise to Atlantic City to play at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. Having a hometown hero as the quarterback would appear to be a no-brainer.

“I haven’t heard anything about it, but it’s something that might be a possibility,” Callahan said. “But my top priority is playing in the NFL again. That still comes first for me.”

It’s why Callahan endures the bitter cold and biting wind to throw passes to an old high school teammate on a youth league field.

The NFL is only a phone call away, and he has to stay ready.

He always keeps his bags packed, just in case.

David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.

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Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com Twitter @PressACWeinbergContact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com Twitter @PressACWeinberg

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