Doug Pederson plans to keep Eagles hitting, despite injuries

PHILADELPHIA -- The return of hitting in Philadelphia Eagles training camp practices has brought a daily list of bumps and bruises along with it.

Two offensive starters, tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, left the field with injuries during one period. Defensive end Marcus Smith left with a concussion, while defensive tackle Mike Martin sprained his knee.

Ertz was unhappy with the low hit from rookie safety Blake Countess. It was the second time in three days that Ertz took a hit below his knees. On Wednesday, veteran Rodney McLeod was the culprit.

“I think it needs to be addressed, but it is what it is," Ertz told reporters after practice.

Coach Doug Pederson said he had no plans to change his approach. For the past three years, under head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles almost never hit in practice. They wore pads only occasionally.

“Football’s a contact sport,” Pederson said. “This is going to happen, whether it happens today or Thursday night (during the first preseason game). It’s part of the game.

“I’m a big believer you never shy away from contact. You have to have contact. It’s a contact sport. We’ll continue to monitor the guys, but at the same time, we won’t shy away from contact.”

Ertz and Matthews were injured in collisions with defensive teammates. Ertz was evaluated for a concussion and cleared. Matthews hurt his knee. Neither injury appeared to be serious. Before Friday, the Eagles’ injuries were mostly muscle strains and pulls -- not really caused by contact. On Thursday, safety Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jason Peters (quad) were injured. They did not practice Friday.

Two players did return to the practice field. Running back Ryan Mathews, who reported with an ankle injury last week, practiced for the first time on a limited basis. He had one carry during a team session.

Right guard Brandon Brooks was on the field for the first time after injuring his hamstring before camp began. Brooks took part in individual drills, but was held out of full-team periods.

“It was very frustrating,” said Brooks, who signed a five-year, $40-million contract in free agency. “When you’re in (the NovaCare Complex), riding the bike or running on the treadmill and you’re watching guys practicing, it makes you a little hungry to come out.”

Offensive tackle Lane Johnson, whose previous NFL experience was all during Kelly’s tenure, welcomed the switch to live hitting.

“That’s the way it is, with people flying around and competing,” Johnson said. “People are going to get tweaked up every now and then. I’d rather hit, just to know what it’s going to be like in a game.”