Zaruba Starts Crash Course with Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Adam Zaruba looks the part. Now he has just has to learn the role.
The Eagles new 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end practiced for the first time Friday and by Sunday he was in front of 23,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field, the first steps for the former Canadian rugby star as he attempts to turn his natural athletic gifts into an NFL career.
Zaruba, 26, is obviously a long shot to make the Eagles' 53-man roster but any journey can't be completed before the first step and that came on the field at the NovaCare Complex when the Vancouver native stretched and shagged a few footballs with his new teammates.
By the time it was over Zaruba has just dangled his feet in the water of a process that figures to ramp up very quickly.
"I got some reps in and learned a lot,” Zaruba said at his locker after his first day.
Tight end remains one of the most entrenched positions on the Eagles' roster with receiving threat Zach Ertz and veteran Y-back Brent Celek joined by the versatile Trey Burton holding down the third spot.
Among the projects, a category Zaruba joined, are king-sized former Sheperd receiver Billy Brown, who has impressed with his hands, and former Utah tight end Anthony Denham.
Philadelphia, though, convinced him the City of Brotherly Love was better than sticking close to Vancouver and signing with the Seattle Seahawks.
Zaruba's goal is to show enough in a short window to make the Eagles believe he's worth keeping around as a developmental prospect on the practice squad.
YouTube has confirmed Zaruba has impressive ball skills and he ran a 4.62 at 260 pounds during his Eagles' tryout, which is why he is now on the field wearing No. 80.
The number alone might make you think Philadelphia sees something special in Zaruba but like most undrafted hopefuls he's dressing in the middle of the Eagles' lock room in a stall with wheels that can easily be whisked away at any time.
He last played football in high school before shifting gears toward rugby, a sport where there is no blocking, a trait Zaruba hopes to pick up again quickly.
"I have played football before, so I do know about blocking," he said. "Obviously the techniques are a lot different and it’s going to be more complex, but the coaches are going to work with me every day.”
The cramming will only increase in the coming days but it's clear tight ends coach Justin Peelle and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp see something intriguing in Zaruba.
"It’s just like it’s new," Zaruba said. "It’s going to take a little bit to get used to the techniques and the systems and stuff, but they’re coaching me real good out there. I’m just taking it a step at a time."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen