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Delaware native 'happy to be home' with Eagles to fulfill father's prediction


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Andre Patton was waiting patiently for the call ever since January, knowing that the process could take months.

As it turned out, patience paid off for the St. Elizabeth High School star. That's because the Eagles, the team Patton rooted for as a kid, the team his father, also named Andre Patton, is fanatical about, signed him Thursday.

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"They were super excited," Patton said about his family members. "It’s funny, too, because just the whole process, going through the offseason, I didn’t get any calls. It wasn’t bad. I didn’t lose my confidence. I continued to work out. 

"I was like, if anything is going to happen, it’s going to come either right before (NFL teams) go to summer break (in June) or the end of July. Sure enough, towards the end of July, I started getting more calls.

"And my dad was like, ‘Eagles, Eagles, Eagles!' He just knew it would be the Eagles."

But this is hardly just a homecoming for Patton.

He's 27 years old now, and incredibly, he is the oldest wide receiver on the Eagles. But Patton is also realistic. He is in his fifth NFL season after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, and he knows he has a short time to impress the coaches in order to get a spot on the 53-man roster. 

Patton has played in 13 NFL games, all with the Chargers in the 2019 season. That was when he had the only catches of his NFL career – six for 56 yards, with four going for first downs. 

Since then, Patton has fought his way to get back on an NFL roster. He was released by the Chargers in August 2020, then signed to the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad, then released and signed to the Miami Dolphins' practice squad, where he finished out the season.

The Dolphins didn't keep him on their 90-man roster for the offseason, thus making Patton a free agent.

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So he waited and worked out, hoping that a team needing a wide receiver would call.

For the Eagles, it was an easy decision. 

That's because at 6-foot-4, Patton is the tallest wide receiver on the roster. He can use his height for 50-50 balls, which he demonstrated as a basketball player at St. E.

And, he is familiar with both Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.

Sirianni was Patton's wide receivers coach during Patton's rookie season with the Chargers in 2017. The next season, Sirianni left to become the Colts' offensive coordinator.

Steichen, the Chargers' quarterbacks coach at the time, was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2019, the season that Patton spent on the active roster.

"Is there a connection there? Do they know me? Yes, absolutely," Patton said. "It definitely helps. It just helps if you can learn the concepts as a whole, then just learning the plays will be easier."

But Patton knows that familiarity doesn't guarantee anything either. That was something Sirianni said he always liked about Patton.

"We needed more legs out there with the wide receivers," Sirianni said. "We had familiarity with Andre ... When I was with him that (rookie) year, he stayed on our practice squad because we had high hopes for him that he could develop into a good player because he had natural ability.

"It's hard to get guys that have made plays in the NFL that aren't on a team at this particular time."

So Patton spent his first practice Friday next to wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead going over every play as the Eagles ran their team drills. 

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He did that again Saturday, getting in for a few plays here and there as he continued to learn the playbook.

"I think that’s super, super vital, especially now, because I’m kind of behind and I have to take those mental reps every time I’m not in," Patton said. "Just continue to watch and not B.S. in the background. They notice that stuff, so the more mental reps I get, the more I can process the formations and the concepts and get it all down."

But Patton also knows that special teams will be a big factor in him staying with the Eagles.

That could help him because typically the top wide receivers aren't used in that capacity unless it's punt returns for DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor or even Greg Ward. But the other wide receivers, the ones in the mix for roster spots – John Hightower, Quez Watkins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – haven't been used much on special teams.

Patton was a regular on special teams for the Chargers in 2019, again something that appealed to the Eagles.

"He has some stats," special teams coordinator Michael Clay said. "A big guy that can run like that is an added bonus for us."

Patton learned this during his rookie season with the Chargers. He said that might have helped him stay on the practice squad until he got his chance in 2019.

"Not a lot of guys know that special teams is how you make it onto a team, and you gotta make yourself valuable," Patton said. "The more you can do, the more you know, the easier it will be for me."

So Patton is getting his chance, and he's getting it close to his family. He hasn't seen them much in the past few years because he lives in California full-time with his fiancee and their son, Kai, who's 10 months old.

For now, Patton couldn't be happier.

"My phone has been exploding the last 48 hours," he said. "It’s been really good. I’m happy to be home."

DeVonta Smith leaves with injury

Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith left practice early Saturday evening with an apparent leg injury. Smith, the Eagles' first-round pick, took part in the first set of team drills, then went to the medical tent and returned after a short time.

He spent the rest of practice on the sidelines watching. But he did not have any kind of wrap on his leg, and seemed to be walking without a limp. An Eagles spokesman said Smith will be evaluated further, but the injury isn't believed to be serious. The team doesn't practice Sunday. It's not known if Smith will be able to practice Monday.

Other injury news

WRs Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins practiced fully for the first time since the start of training camp. Reagor had been limited in the previous three days with lower body soreness and a personal issue. Watkins was also limited with a non-COVID illness. RG Brandon Brooks (hamstring) remains day-to-day, and LB Davion Taylor (quad) is also day-to-day.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.