Aug 172010

August 17 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Domowitch

“There is an interesting dynamic at an NFL training camp. Room assignments usually are determined by position. A running back bunks with another running back. A linebacker bunks with another linebacker. A tight end bunks with another tight end. You get the picture.

Anyway, this often means that players competing for the same job are thrown together in the same cramped, little dormitory room. Sort of a football version of sleeping with the enemy. Only the enemies often become friends. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes because, well, they just happen to take a liking to each other.

Eagles tight end Clay Harbor wasn’t sure what to expect when the fourth-round rookie arrived at Lehigh 3 weeks ago and was paired with Cornelius Ingram. Harbor and Ingram are competing for the backup tight end job behind starter Brent Celek.

“When I was drafted, I thought it might be a real cutthroat environment here,” Harbor said. “But it’s really not like that. Me and Cornelius help each other out a lot. It’s not a level of competition where, man, I have to do better than [him]. We’re just pushing each other to get better.

“If he sees me do something wrong, he’ll come over and say, ‘Hey, next time, give him a little stick [move] and you’ll probably be open. If I see him do something I think he can improve on, I’ll do the same thing for him.”

A year and change ago, Ingram was a hotshot rookie out of the University of Florida whose speed and athleticism had the Eagles drooling. Then, just days into training camp, he tore his ACL for the second time in 2 years. He is healthy again, but two ACL injuries are a big hurdle to overcome. Especially at this level, where losing a step can be the difference between catching 50 passes and selling insurance.

“My first couple of days in practice in pads a few weeks ago, I was making sure I was jumping from around the piles because I was thinking about the knee,” Ingram said. “But once I started to settle down and make plays, I got more comfortable. It’s something everybody goes through, even if they only went through the surgery one time. And I went through it twice.

“It’s in the back of my mind. I definitely think about it. But, for the most part, I try not to. It’s been a long, difficult 2 years. I’m just trying to live in the moment. Relax and play ball.”

While Ingram has struggled to regain his pre-injury form, Harbor has been one of the most impressive rookies in camp. Watching him on the practice field, it’s hard to believe the kid is the product of a I-AA program (Missouri State).

He came out of nowhere last January with impressive performances in a pair of postseason all-star games, then knocked scouts’ socks off at the combine and in his Pro Day workout, running a 4.57 in the 40, registering a 40-inch vertical leap and benching 225 pounds 30 times. Anybody who thought he might only be a workout warrior has found out otherwise the last 3 weeks. The kid can play.”

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