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CUNNINGHAM OPENS CAMP IN BETTER MOOD

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Randall Cunningham tried a new approach to prepare for his ninth NFL season.

"I went and got married, so I'm happy now. That's where it starts," the quarterback said Wednesday of his May 8 wedding to Felicity de Jager.The feeling is a welcome change from 1992, when he came back from knee surgery to lead the Eagles to their fourth playoff berth in five years and their first playoff victory in 12 years. But Cunningham was also benched for a game and a half at midseason.

Cunningham returns to a team looking for leadership in the wake of free-agency defections by Reggie White, Keith Byars and nine others.

Training camp opened for veterans Wednesday at West Chester University.

A year ago, Cunningham returned with questions about his left knee, which had been injured the previous opening day and sidelined him for the 1991 season. He prepared to change from a scrambler to a pocket quarterback - "sit in there and let the ball go.

"I adjusted to that style for the first four games. We needed to change up our system a little bit. We didn't. Teams caught on. Then I looked bad. Then I didn't play well," Cunningham said.

"And I know how I feel about football now. Last year, because of the situation that I was in, as far as being benched and everything, I was a little bitter," Cunningham said.

He admitted being displeased about his benching.

"How do you become the MVP of the league two years, MVP of the Pro Bowl, Pro Bowl three times, and then you get put on the bench? I never agreed with being put on the bench.

"So now I'm happy, all that's in the past, the relationship with (coach Rich) Kotite is beginning to come back, and I think with Zeke Bratkowski being the offensive coordinator and having a hand-in-glove relationship with him is going to make a difference in my play."

He declined to comment further on the benching. The night before, Kotite reportedly talked to the players about public friction on the team last season.

Kotite declined to detail what he said, except to say the Eagles need "all our energies focused on winning."

"I thought it was a distraction," Kotite said. "That's history now. Live and learn."

Cunningham is confident the players can put free agency losses behind them.

"I'm sure guys were a little upset that we lost Reggie and Keith and a lot of the other players," Cunningham said. "But they do realize that we still have to stay here, and we have to play football.

"Put it in ink; you can put it on television. I think we're going to have a great football team this year."

Defensive end Tim Harris, one of the free agents picked up by the Eagles, missed the opening practice because his wife was in an auto accident in San Francisco. The team had no word Wednesday of her condition.