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Trotter flying high again with Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeremiah Trotter left Philadelphia angry and bitter over a contentious contract dispute featuring hurt feelings and heated words on both sides.

Two years later, Trotter is back with the Eagles, humbled and ready to prove he still has something left.

"I still don't believe it," Trotter said. "It still hasn't sunk in yet. I never thought I'd be back. Honestly."

Trotter passed his physical yesterday and signed a one-year contract for less than $1 million.

That's significantly less than the seven-year, $35 million contract he received from Washington two summers ago. But while the contract made him rich, he never really fit in the Redskins' defensive scheme.

"No matter how much I tried to make Washington home, it never felt like home," Trotter said. "I'm excited to be back."

The move was a mild stunner considering Trotter was one of the first name players the Eagles didn't re-sign under the Andy Reid philosophy of replacing expensive veterans with cheaper, younger players.

After the 2001 season, the Eagles placed the franchise tag on Trotter, which he strongly protested. His relationship with Reid and team president Joe Banner quickly deteriorated and he signed with the Redskins soon after the Eagles removed the tag, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Trotter never lived up to expectations in Washington. He injured his knee late in the 2003 season, though he did return to lead Washington with 129 tackles in 16 games last year.

The knee injury, though, led to an improved relationship with Reid when he unexpectedly called Trotter to wish his former Pro Bowler well. About a month ago, unemployed and with few options, Trotter reached out to Reid, this time to apologize for his behavior in his final days with Philadelphia and for how he handled his departure.

"I've grown up a lot," Trotter said. "I've made some bad decisions. I handled things the way I shouldn't have. I told him, 'If we never speak again, I just need to call you and tell you that."'

Reid was not at the news conference and unavailable for comment Thursday.

Trotter's role is uncertain. Mark Simoneau is listed as Philadelphia's starting middle linebacker, with Dhani Jones and Nate Wayne at the outside linebacker spots.

Trotter said he knew he'd likely have to accept a backup role. Still, he wants to be a fiery leader in the locker room and help Simoneau "if he needs it."

A third-round draft choice from Stephen F. Austin in 1998, Trotter established himself as one of the premier middle linebackers in the NFL during his time in Philadelphia, going to the Pro Bowl in 2000 and 2001.

He led the Eagles in tackles from 1999-2001, including a career-best 202 in his first season as a starter in 1999.

He showed few flashes of that dominance with the Redskins.

"I went through two years where I didn't enjoy the game," Trotter said. "Even though the money was there, I just didn't enjoy the game. I just want to enjoy the game again."

The Eagles, runners-up in the NFC championship the last three years, have had a busy offseason, acquiring four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens, signing three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jevon Kearse and Jones.

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