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Howard Mudd is back to rebuild Eagles OL in minicamp…

He took a break to recuperate from a long 2011 season… but Howard Mudd is back in Philly for mandatory minicamp this week…

He’s 70 years old, in his fourth decade as an assistant coach after being talked out of retirement last season, and anxious to get back at it after taking some time off.

Howard Mudd returned Tuesday for the start of a three-day minicamp that concludes the Philadelphia Eagles offseason program, working with his guys on the offensive line and feeling renewed as he begins his 46th NFL season as a player or coach.

Mudd, who underwent hip surgery during the 2011 season and was given the time off by head coach Andy Reid this spring to recharge for the six-to-seven month grind that is an NFL season, said the move was needed and beneficial.

“You don’t have the same energy when you’re older— I just don’t,” said Mudd. “So I think it’s important. I’ve got to be honest— I feel very rejuvenated. I feel vital when I get around here.”

Reid is certainly glad to have Mudd, whom he talked out of retirement to coach a team with Super Bowl hopes. While that didn’t come close to happening, the offensive line’s development under Mudd’s unique system was one of the positives for a disappointing team.

While giving credit to former No. 1 draft pick and Mudd assistant Eugene Chung for coaching the line this spring, Reid said he’s glad to have Mudd back at practice.

“You’re talking about the finest offensive line coach to have coached the game,” said Reid. “That’s how he’s respected in this league and for him to be back is a good thing.”

A three-time Pro Bowl guard during a nine-year career, Mudd has coached offensive line in the NFL for 37 seasons. In his first season in Philadelphia following a 12-year run in Indianapolis and his abbreviated retirement, he put two rookies into starting roles (C Jason Kelce and RG Danny Watkins), moved steady guard Todd Herremans to tackle and gave a journeyman guard (LG Evan Mathis) a starting spot. He wound up with a group that gave up the fourth-fewest sacks in the league with 32 — that is, 17 fewer than a year earlier.

But the line took a huge hit in March, when Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon at home in Texas. Unlikely to play at that point, Peters suffered a setback following surgery and seems almost certain to miss the entire season.

The team moved aggressively to address the loss, signing free agent Demetress Bell, who had replaced Peters as a starter in Buffalo.

While Mudd termed Peters a one-of-a-kind player, comparing him to former Seattle star and nine-time Pro Bowl pick Walter Jones, he said Bell has outstanding potential.

“The truth of the matter is, I think that Demetress has an unusual amount of athleticism, which we like here,” said Mudd. “We can do a lot with that, and his mental toughness and the eagerness to get the thing right. This guy is going to help us win games.”

Mudd also expects continued improvement from center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins, both of whom started as rookies, in what he hopes will be an extended season.

“I was sitting around with Eugene Chung this morning watching some video of the past practices, and I said, ‘Do you realize how much I like this?,’ and he laughed,” said Mudd. “A lot of this has to do with just your attitude about it. I feel very fortunate that Andy let me do what I did because there’s still some gas in the tank. I want to drive fast, too, and I want to go a long way.”

[Thanks to Steve Patton of readingeagle.com  for his research and quotes in this story…]

Even while he was resting and relaxing at his houses in Arizona and Seattle, Howard Mudd never truly felt at home until he was back on the field at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday.

“You don’t have the same energy when you get older,” Mudd said after a minicamp workout inside the bubble. “You just don’t. But honestly, I feel rejuvenated and vital again. Besides, you coach with your brain. My wife may disagree, but I’m still pretty sharp mentally.”

Mudd coached most of last season in considerable pain because of hip problems. He also endured one of the more challenging seasons of his 37-year NFL coaching career.

After sitting out the 2010 season, he rejoined the Eagles and was promptly asked to rebuild the offensive line on the fly because of the lockout. Of the five starters who finished last season, only tackles Todd Herremans and Jason Peters had been with the team a year earlier and Herremans had played guard. Center Jason Kelce and guard Danny Watkins were rookies. Guard Evan Mathis had signed as a free agent.

But the unit got better as the year progressed. The Eagles allowed 32 sacks after surrendering 50 in 2010 and paved the way for running back LeSean McCoy to rush for a career-best 1,309 yards and score a league-high 20 touchdowns.

Afterward, Reid insisted he take some time off. “I told him to go practice retirement,” Reid said with a smile Tuesday. “The last time he tried it (after the 2010 season with Indianapolis), he didn’t do so well. That was the same thing this time. He wasn’t home for more than three days and he was ready to come back.”

Mudd, who also played in the NFL for eight seasons (1964-71), couldn’t wait to get back.

Rookie DT Fletcher Cox was excused from practice because of a death in his family. … Three players — LB Ryan Rau, DE Frank Trotter and WR Raymond Webber — are in on a tryout basis. … This three-day minicamp is mandatory, unlike the previous OTAs. Another practice is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, followed by a final practice on Thursday morning.

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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