There was a crowd around the locker of Eagles newcomer Akeem Spence on Wednesday.
There was no nameplate above his stall and if you didn’t know what he looked like, you would have sworn he was a linebacker or even a safety. Spence just isn’t very tall, though he’s listed at 6-1, 300.
“I’m not the biggest guy around, but I’ve been playing football since I was this high,” said Spence, raising his hand to about waist level. “It’s the heart, it’s not looking at everything, so I always got the big heart and it’s carried me this far.”
Spence was signed by the Eagles earlier this week to take the defensive tackle roster spot of Malik Jackson, who underwent surgery on Wednesday for a Lisfranc injury that will likely end his season.
VIDEO: Newcomer Akeem Spence talks about his week away from football
Interestingly, Spence said he also had a Lisfranc injury during his career, but escaped surgery, though he said he had to wear a walking boot for eight weeks.
Spence is on his third team in three seasons. Two years ago, it was the Detroit Lions. Last year, it was the Miami Dolphins.
"Just to get an opportunity like this, it’s a once in a lifetime," said Spence. "I’ve never been on a winning team so being here I’ve been all smiles and just trying to make sure I’m not upsetting nobody and going out there and just doing my thing."
Spence thinks he knows why he’s bounced around.
“I was playing for coach (Jim) Caldwell in Detroit, great coach, loved him, then they brought Matt Patricia in, it was unfortunate,” said Spence. “I’m not a 3-4 (defense) guy. I’m not a big hefty guy and it was kind of the same situation in Miami. (Brian) Flores came over (to be the new head coach), so it’s understandable.
“It’s business. They like what they like. Some teams like little, fast-twitch guys, so we have life in this league as well. It’s just different strokes for different folks.”
Spence said being way from the game for a week-and-half after being waived by the Dolphins was difficult to take. He said he had some calls from other teams, but the Eagles pulled the trigger first. He spent his time away staying in shape near his Fort Walton Beach, Fla., home.
“It was my first time ever being that situation,” said Spence. “Just watching opening week from home, it’s humbling. Honestly, it was really humbling. But at the same time, it makes you realize how much you love the game because you’re going to work out every day, two, three times a day, just staying somewhat in game shape.
“You can’t get in game shape lifting weights and running out there on the field and everything like that, but just that week-and-a half, man, it was like, I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Spence, who said he wore down a bit during his first practice with the team on Wednesday, may be ready to get out there on Sunday night when the Eagles visit the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s always a possibility,” said Spence. “I’m always optimistic; always, always, optimistic. But if it’s Sunday or the following Sunday, whenever my number’s called, I’ll definitely be ready.”
Reserve quarterback Nate Sudfeld is making progress from his broken left wrist injury. He was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice for the first time since the injury happened in the first preseason game. Also listed as limited were defensive end Derek Barnett (shoulder) and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (toe).
Not participating were linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee) and offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (back).