PHILADELPHIA ( - It was supposed to be Brandon Graham but it turned out to be Fletcher Cox as it was the high-priced defensive tackle who led a group of three veterans who missed the opening of Phase 3 of OTAs at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday.

Also absent were left tackle Jason Peters and punter Donnie Jones, three seemingly entrenched players.

"Obviously, as you guys know, too, it's a voluntary offseason program," coach Doug Pederson explained before practice. "I've been in touch with all three of those guys and we've communicated for the reasons for them not being here. But [there are] no worries with them going forward."

Second-year defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao ran with the first-team defensive line in the absence of Cox, next to offseason pickup Tim Jernigan. On the outside were Brandon Graham at left end and Vinny Curry at RE, although the two flipped sides at times.

First-round pick Derek Barnett was the second-team right end with veteran free-agent pickup Chris Long handled the other side. Curry, meanwhile, also worked inside at times a nickel rusher.

Cox is expected back next week but his absence was surprising because he is a year removed from a contract extension with a massive guarantee and you could sense a little disappointment from Pederson.

"The reason is satisfactory," the coach said when pressed on Cox's absence. "Again, it's a voluntary program. I would love for everybody to be here. That's just me, personally. I would love everybody to be here. I know it's not always going to work out that way. But, you know, Fletcher's one of the leaders on the football team. Guys like that, you do expect to be here. I get the rules. We abide by the rules. He's one of the guys, too, that at the end of the day, I'm going to hang my hat on and go to war with."

As for Peters and Jones, Pederson didn't sound the alarm but instead of just plugging in someone at left tackle, the Eagles flipped Lane Johnson to the left side and let Halapoulivaati Vaitai step at RT with the ones.

Part of that could have been Allen Barbre being absent with a calf injury because the versatile veteran would probably be the 25-year-old Peters' backup on game day.

Jones, 36, has competition in the form of Ohio State undrafted free agent Cameron Johnston, who was an excellent punter at the college level.

"Some of those guys have specific reasons. Some have personal reasons," Pederson said. "These guys have also participated in our offseason program up to this point."

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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