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Tim Jernigan is back and showing the swagger that makes him the ‘spirit’ of the Eagles’ D

Some players are motivated by a chip on their shoulder.

Then there’s the two-by-four that Tim Jernigan is carrying around on his.

A quick review:

Jernigan joined the Eagles in 2017, signed a big-money deal, won a Super Bowl, hurt his neck/back, saw much of that money go away, became a free agent, and returned for a small-money deal.

Quite the whirlwind. Thoughts?

“It don’t matter. I’m here. Next question," Jernigan said Tuesday after the Eagles held their first practice of OTAs.

He knows no one expected him to be standing in front of a locker at the NovaCare Complex in May, but alas ...

“Everybody in the world [thought I wouldn’t be back], but I’m here," he said. "Let’s talk about right now.”

In a second.

A few questions first.

Were you surprised by the lack of offers from other clubs?

“It is what it is. I’d rather talk that about more when the season’s over."

Were you healthy at the end of last season?

“I was on the field. If a guy ain’t healthy, he shouldn’t be on the field right? Next question.”

(Yeah, Jernigan’s agent is Drew Rosenhaus.)

Jernigan’s aforementioned injury was a herniated disk in his neck/back. It occurred early in the offseason following Super Bowl LII and was a non-football injury, which is why it cost Jernigan the remaining guaranteed money in the four-year, $48 million deal he earned a few months into his first season with the Eagles.

Jernigan hasn’t divulged how it occurred, and asked again this time, still wouldn’t budge.

“I won’t [say how it happened]," he said.

According to Philly.com’s Les Bowen, Jernigan underwent a cervical fusion, which would allow him to keep playing but also increase the chances of another herniation, which would end his career.

Hence the lack of offers from other teams and the Eagles’ decision to sign Malik Jackson for $30 million ($17 million guaranteed).

They brought Jernigan back for $2 million ($1 million guaranteed).

Back to the present.

How’s the back/neck?

“I was out there today. I was playing. What’s next?”

Jernigan later was a little more forthcoming about his current condition.

“I feel good. I’ve lost 15 pounds of body fat," he said. "Last year I was back on the field after working out six times. I lifted weights six times. I ran on the field two times [for cardio], and I was back on the field [playing]. I ain’t gotta say nothin’ else.”

Except for this.

“You’ll see the difference in September,” he said. "Ask any coach in here. Ask any player in here what Timmy Jernigan looks like. I ain’t gotta brag on myself. I ain’t gotta talk on myself. Ask them. I ain’t gotta say one word. They’ll tell you how I’m coming. It’s on.”

That’s good news for the Eagles because a healthy Jernigan effectively gives them a third starter behind Fletcher Cox and Jackson, something they didn’t have last year when Haloti Ngata, Destiny Vaeao and Treyvon Hester started in Jernigan’s absence.

“I love it. We’re better together," Jernigan said. “I’m feeling good about where we’re at. I embrace Malik. I think he’s a hell of a player. I’m looking forward to learning from him. Whatever I can do to make me a better player and help the team and play my role.”

Whatever that role may be. He’s confident he’ll earn playing time.

“I don’t care. I believe in me. I believe in Timmy. Straight up," he said. “I hope nobody takes that the wrong way.”

There’s nothing wrong with a little competition.

“I mean me and Fletch go at it. I don’t care who I’m lined up with — we’re going to compete,” he said. "We’re going to compete man, and that’s what I love about this defensive line. Everybody goes at it, and that’s what makes us better, makes us special as a unit.”

Jernigan, who turns 27 in September, also gives the defense a critical intangible. As Jeremiah Trotter would say, Jernigan gives the D some “dog." On his first play of his first game last season, he told Saquon Barkley, “There’s a new sheriff in town" after stopping the Giants’ phenom for a 1-yard gain.

“There’s something you really can’t put your finger on,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said in January. “He means something to our spirit. He’s a guy that has a little bit of a contagious energy. He brings a confidence, a toughness.”

Like Trotter said.

“I’m going to give this team everything I got. Everything I got, I’m going to give it to them," Jernigan said. “And that’s just who I am as a player, and if that comes off as, ‘He’s the spirit of the defense,’ then OK, I accept that. I had to go through some stuff. I’m confident and I’m happy about the way I came out on the other side.

“My eyes are open. I’m not walking around with a blindfold on no more. But we good. It’s all love.”

He’s also loving the fire the Eagles showed Tuesday at practice.

“That’s the way it’s gotta be," Jernigan said. "When I feel like we were at our best, when we had our best year and were able to conquer the whole season and win it all — that’s the type of passion we played with. That’s how we practiced. That’s the swagger we brought to the field every day. And that’s what we gotta start right now. We ain’t waiting for nothin'. The time is right now. We’re going to win and we’re going to beat people right now.”

As for the size of that chip ...

“We’ll see in September,” he said.

Salary info per Overthecap.com.

Morning Call digital sports director Andy Schwartz can be reached at 610-508-1501 or aschwartz@mcall.com.

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