By CHRIS McPHERSON
Tight end L.J. Smith will not participate in the team's Organized Training Activities (June 5-14) after undergoing successful surgery to repair a sports hernia Wednesday.
The surgery was performed on the 6-foot-3, 258-pound Smith by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia. Smith's status will be evaluated over the next several weeks to determine whether he will be ready to practice at the start of training camp. Veterans are scheduled to report to training camp on July 30.
Tight end L.J. Smith had five touchdown receptions in 2006 With Smith's absence at the OTAs, the Eagles will have Matt Schobel, Lee Vickers and fifth-round draft pick Brent Celek. Mike Bartrum remains on the roster, but his status remains unclear after a season-ending neck injury was incurred in November.
A third-round pick in 2003, Smith has played in 63 games (43 starts) and has 172 career receptions for 1,991 yards and 14 touchdowns. Last season, Smith had 50 catches for 611 yards and a career-high tying five touchdowns. He also improved as a blocking tight end as he helped running back Brian Westbrook rush for a career-high 1,217 yards. This season is a pivotal one for Smith who is in the final year of his rookie contract. The two-time Pro Bowl alternate has expressed his desire to remain a Philadelphia Eagle after this season.
Smith is the not the first player to deal with a sports hernia injury. Quarterback Donovan McNabb was placed on Injured Reserve due to complications of a sports hernia in 2005. Punter Dirk Johnson had surgery prior to training camp in 2005. *
Another hernia? At least they caught it now, and not in September. I just hope this does not become a recurring problem. Let's all hope for the best. On the bright side, this will give Celek, and Vickers plenty of work. That should be a good camp battle to keep an eye on.
May 31, 2007
By CHRIS McPHERSON
May 30, 2007
Celek Agrees To Terms, Barksdale Signs 4-Year Deal
By CHRIS McPHERSON
At this rate, the Eagles could have their draft picks all signed and accounted for before the veterans report next week for organized training activities (OTAs) let alone training camp.
The Eagles are making quick work of signing their draft picks as tight end Brent Celek agreed to a four-year deal and cornerback Rashad Barksdale signed a four-year deal on Wednesday. Celek, a fifth-round pick out of Cincinnati, and Barksdale, a sixth-round pick out of Albany, are the fourth and fifth of the Eagles draft picks to agree to terms on or sign a contact. Linebacker Stewart Bradley and running back Tony Hunt, both third-round picks, and safety C.J. Gaddis, a fifth-round pick, were the other members of the Class of 2007 to sign their rookie contracts.
CB Rashad Barksdale The only remaining players left for the Eagles to do business with are both their second-round picks - quarterback Kevin Kolb and defensive end Victor Abiamiri - and seventh-round pick, running back Nate Ilaoa.
The 6-foot-4, 261-pound Celek led all Big East tight ends as a senior in receptions (35) and yards (481), while adding three touchdowns, including an 83 yarder which helped upset previously-undefeated seventh-ranked Rutgers. A two-year Big East All-Academic team selection, the 22-year-old Celek finished his career ranked third on the school's all-time list among tight ends in receptions (91) and touchdowns (14), while amassing 1,135 yards. A second-team All-Conference USA recipient as a sophomore, he set a Bearcat single-season record for touchdowns (8) by a tight end.
By CHRIS McPHERSON
It took only one year of college football for cornerback Rashad Barksdale to earn what almost every football player dreams of - an NFL contract.
The Eagles are making quick work of signing their draft picks as Barksdale, a sixth-round pick out of Albany, became the fourth Eagle to sign his rookie contract on Wednesday joining linebacker Stewart Bradley and running back Tony Hunt, who were third-round selections, and safety C.J. Gaddis, a fifth-round pick.
CB Rashad Barksdale Without a first-round pick, the Eagles hope to have all of their picks signed well before training camp. The only picks not yet signed are second-round selections - quarterback Kevin Kolb and defensive end Victor Abiamiri, tight end Brent Celek - a fifth-round pick and running back Nate Ilaoa, the team's seventh-round pick.
After playing baseball for two years at I-AA Albany, the 5-11, 208-pound Barksdale decided that with one year of college eligibility left to give the football team a try. Wanting to walk on as a running back, Barksdale was moved to the defensive side of the football. He started out at safety before being moved to cornerback. Barksdale started in 10 games and registered 37 tackles, three interceptions and three knockdowns. His best game came against No. 11 Delaware where he had two interceptions to help the Great Danes to an upset.
With good size and speed (just a shade over 4.4 in the 40-yard dash), Barksdale will have time to learn behind veterans Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and William James. Despite his lack of college experience, Barksdale doesn't think of himself as a project.
"I think I can go in there and compete like everybody else," said Barksdale. "Football comes so natually to me in life. I have athletic ability to do what I have to do and compete."
And apparently the Eagles agree, as they rewarded his one year of football at the college level with a four-year deal.
Labels: Rashad Barksdale
May 29, 2007
The Eagles finally outdid the Patriots in something. By selecting Stewart Bradley in the 3rd round, a player the Pats really coveted. After Bradley was gone, they then traded away their pick to Oakland.
Bradley is a big physical SAM LB, and he is exactly what this team has needed ever since Carlos Emmons left. Dhani Jones was a black hole on the defense, and Bradley made him expendable.
Labels: Stewart Bradley
May 28, 2007
The first day on the job is always a little scary, even if you are a professional football player.
Much like the rest of his fellow collegians preparing to enter the work force, Stewart Bradley had concerns: fitting in with his co-workers, getting to know his bosses and dealing with the anxiety of starting a new career.
Though he puts on a helmet and pads instead of a suit and tie, it is still a job.
“Someone asks you where you were today, you’re like, I had to go to work,” Bradley said last week, putting in a little overtime after his first N.F.L. minicamp. “It’s your job.”
It is not a bad career for someone who walked on at Nebraska because a rash of injuries in high school ruined his senior season. But Bradley, like any driven young professional, knows he cannot rest on his laurels.
“You can’t get too hyped up in this ritzy lifestyle that everyone talks about and reads about,” he said, “because when it comes down to it, you’re just a regular guy going to work.”
A third-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in last month’s draft, Bradley had his first N.F.L. day when the team assembled the night before minicamp. As in any other workplace, it was hard to figure out where to fit in on his first day.
“You really feel like, when you first come into a team and try to become one of them, it’s hard to really integrate,” he said. “They all know each other and have common experience and have played games with each other.
“When you go to war with someone like that, when you get on the field and battle other teams with a player, you become close.”
Bradley, the 87th overall draft pick, led Nebraska with 76 tackles as a senior after sitting out 2005 with a knee injury. A three-year starter a strong-side linebacker, Bradley had 175 tackles and 4 sacks in 43 games for the Cornhuskers.
A good attitude and an active imagination conjuring up worst-case scenarios can ease the transition.
“You can’t duplicate or prepare someone for the experience of coming to a new team until they actually do it,” Bradley said. “Until you actually come here and experience it, there’s some anxiety of the unknown.
“The good thing is that you always build it up worse than it is. It couldn’t be as bad as you could possibly imagine it. You could always imagine it worse.”
The uncertainty a new player feels is hard to grasp, Bradley said. “It’s not as black and white,” Bradley said. “It’s more ambiguous.
“You don’t even know what you’re really worrying about. You don’t even know enough to know what could go wrong.”
Bradley might push for playing time right away at the strongside linebacker spot. The Eagles released Dhani Jones before minicamp and placed converted defensive end Chris Gocong, who missed his rookie season last year with an injury, at the top of the depth chart.
If Bradley wants to get on the field early, he must master the playbook of the defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson, known for its baffling number of blitzes. To ease the learning process, Sean McDermott, Bradley’s position coach, has been working with him, breaking down the Eagles’ scheme.
“As you put all those little pieces together, you start to build the whole thing as a little mosaic of little puzzle pieces,” Bradley said. “And as you complete them and really know them, you can build on them.”
But his transition from a collegian to a young professional is still a work in progress.
“I’ll know more about the transition after the first year is really complete,” he said. “The whole year you’re still a rookie.”
Being an N.F.L. rookie has one big advantage over most other jobs: the paycheck. A former walk-on, Bradley signed a four-year contract with the Eagles last Thursday.
Labels: Stewart Bradley
May 26, 2007
Report: Bills Could Lose Walker Back To Eagles
Dave Buchanan - Friday, May 25, 2007 - 7:51 PM
Adam Schefter with Corey Griswold on Darwin Walker Exclusive WGR 550 Windows Media Audio
Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - NFL Network's Adam Schefter is reporting that Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Darwin Walker can become property of the Philadelphia Eagles if he does not report to Bills training camp by August 5.If Walker does go back to Philadelphia the Bills would get the Eagles' sixth round pick in 2008. The Bills acquired Walker from Philadelphia back in March for Takeo Spikes and Kelly Holcomb. Walker is holding out in hopes of getting a new contract. His current deal has two years left on it.
This is unbelievable. I'm not sure if the Eagles would want Walker back. Maybe they can move him again to another team, willing to pay his salary demands. Either way the Bills seem to be getting screwed in this deal. As long as the Birds got TKO, I don't care where Walker ends up.
Gannett News Service
Right there in Newark. Near the end zone in Delaware Stadium. With 22,000-plus shell-shocked Blue Hen fans staring back and the ball planted firmly under his armpit.
Right then and there, the greatest memory of Rashad Barksdale's football career.
"I remember every single detail about that game," said Barksdale, the Eagles' sixth-round pick in last month's draft. "It was a like a movie."
Kind of like a "Rocky" flick, with Delaware playing the role of indomitable prizefighter and Barksdale's University at Albany squad the obscure wannabe getting its one shot at acclaim.
Barksdale picked off the first two passes of his collegiate career, including a last-gasp attempt by Blue Hens quarterback Joe Flacco at the 3-yard-line to secure one of the most unlikely upsets of the college football season and stun a partisan home crowd that couldn't possible have believed puny Albany could pull off a 17-10 shocker.
After the interception, Barksdale gazed into the jam-packed crowd and placed his pointer finger over his lips -- the universal sign for quiet.
He was too late.
"It was like somebody pressed the mute button on the fan crowd," Barksdale recalled.
He never had the chance.
Though he had just one year of eligibility, Barksdale was playing just his fourth college football game.
After two years of playing junior college baseball, two more at Albany and a couple failed attempts to go pro, Barksdale abandoned his first love and approached Great Danes football coach Bob Ford about a chance to play the sport he always believed was his best.
"I just wanted to play football, stay busy," he said.
Albany might not be Oklahoma or Penn State, but the fledgling I-AA club still had a couple of legitimate pro football prospects.
Ford had his doubts about the impact Barksdale could make.
It took a few practices before Barksdale changed Ford's mind. By the season opener, Barksdale had climbed his way from third-string cornerback to starting. He also took over the team's top punt returner job.
"I said to my people it was Christmas in July," Ford said.
By Albany's fourth game, Barksdale had showed signs that he could more than hold his own.
Recalled Blue Hens offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca: "When the game was over, I remember watching film on Sunday and saying, "This kid's a pretty good football player.' I hope it works out for him."
Barksdale is hoping to go the route of Rich Gannon, whose heroics at quarterback on Saturdays at Delaware Stadium for the Blue Hens served as the launching pad to a career in the National Football League.
Soon after the upset, pro scouts who had been evaluating Albany's other NFL-caliber players had inquired about the 5-foot-11, 208-pound overnight prospect. At Albany's Pro Day, Barksdale unveiled another gem unknown known to Ford -- blazing 4.38 40-yard-dash speed.
"I couldn't freefall in 4.38," Ford marveled. "Every scout could see his tremendous upside."
Labels: Rashad Barksdale
May 25, 2007
May 25, 2007
"I'm still making a mistake here or there, but it's something that I'm definitely getting better at. Every day it is going to get a little bit better," said Gaddis after Thursday's practice. "It's more comfortable now, but they're putting in more and more stuff, so you have to stay with it or you get left behind."
Labels: CJ Gaddis
Two Picks Agree To Terms
May 24, 2007
By BOB KENT
The Eagles wasted little time locking in members of their 2007 draft class, agreeing to contract terms Thursday with linebacker Stewart Bradley and running back Tony Hunt. The two third-round picks agreed to four-year deals.
With six draft picks remaining to sign, the Eagles are the first NFL team to agree to terms with two 2007 first-day selections.
A three-year starter at Nebraska, Bradley is a sizeable addition to the linebacking corps. At 6-foot-3, 254-pounds, he is expected to contribute on special teams and compete with Chris Gocong at the SAM linebacker position. Coaches believe his impressive cover skills and athletic abilities make him a perfect fit at the SAM position.
'He is a true SAM 'backer, a guy who can play over the tight end, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "It was a good fit for us."
LB Stewart Bradley Bradley led the Cornhuskers with a career-high 76 tackles as a senior, after missing more than half of his 2005 campaign with a torn ACL in his left knee. He also had a team-high four fumble recoveries, three caused fumbles, six tackles for loss and five hurries.
Bradley earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from the league's coaches and The Associated Press.
A three-year starter at strong-side linebacker, Bradley played in 43 career games, registering 175 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and one interception, which he returned 43 yards for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-1, 233-pound Hunt adds some size to the running back position after racking up the numbers at Penn State, Hunt earned All-Big Ten honors for the second time after his senior season, in which he recorded career-highs in rushing yards (1,386), total touchdowns (14), rushing touchdowns (11), rushing yards per game (115.5), and attempts (277).
Hunt finished his career ranked first on the school's all-time list in attempts (654), second in rushing yards (3,320), fourth in all-purpose yards (4,119), and sixth in 100-yard rushing games (15), eight of which came in 2006.
In 45 career games, Hunt produced 28 touchdowns (25 rushing, three receiving). In addition, he became only the fifth player in Penn State history to rush for over 3,000 yards in his career (3,320), and the sixth to rush for over 1,000 yards in more than one season.
Touted as the "big back" Eagles fans were craving, Hunt is much more. He is a 233-pound complete back. He can run, catch and block.
RB Tony Hunt "Tony is a bigger running back than what we've had," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, "but we didn't draft him because he is a big guy. We drafted him because he is a complete running back. He runs very well between the tackles. He catches the ball well and he is a young man who will block. You don't play at Penn State unless you can block.
"He is more than a big back. He does a lot of things on the field. He fits into this system."
Hunt figures to at least provide the Eagles with some short-yardage options as a rookie.
Thursday's transaction leaves the Eagles with six picks left to sign. Rookies and selected veterans are scheduled to report for training camp on July 27.
Awesome! Two down, and six more to go. The Eagles have set the bar for the rest of the NFL, by being the first to sign any draft picks. Now the rest should hopefully start to fall into place like dominos. I can't see anybody holding out on the Eagles this year.
May 23, 2007
Tony Hunt! The Penn State RB is an Eagle, and gives them another very good inside change up option to Brian Westbrook. this pick makes me believe the Eagles will truly stick to running the ball this year. The competition at training camp is going to be fierce.
May 22, 2007
"Nasti" Nate Ilaoa, is a physical down hill runner. He is short, but weighs in around 250 lbs, which makes him more of a bowling ball going through tacklers. Anybody who is a creature of the night like me, has stayed up to watch Hawaii games at 4 am, and has seen this kid play. He is a good value for the 7th round, and is a great pratice squad canidate.
I love this pick. CJ Gaddis is a great athlete, who could be a possible successor to Brian Dawkins. He has a few years to develop, and learn the Eagles defense, and I think this will be one of the best players from this draft.
Check out this video, where Gaddis makes a Dawk-plex like tackle.
2006 Orange and White Game, CJ Gaddis Flip
May 21, 2007
Dumb, Dumb, Dumb: This Rumor Fails The Grade
On the record, it doesn't.
Hey Don, I have to take a really strong stance here and tell you that no team in the world would trade a quarterback the caliber of McNabb for a linebacker. Nobody. Really, it is a completely foolish suggestion, in my opinion.
By GEOFF MOSHER, The News Journal
PHILADELPHIA -- First, Shawn Andrews and Jamaal Jackson got theirs. Then, Mike Patterson got one. Trent Cole and Reggie Brown, too.
When the Eagles embarked on a contract extension spree last season, solidifying their core of young players for the long term, one person looked around the locker room and thought, "What about me?"
Eventually, tight end L.J. Smith stopped waiting around.
"I took it personal at first," Smith said last week. "Because during the season we had [contract] talks and guys were getting deals, young guys were getting extensions for only being here two years, and things like that. So, that's when I took it personal at first.
"But after the season, I was just at a point where I was just like, 'You know what? I just can't control it. It's out of my hands.' So, I'm not worried about that at all."
The marriage between the Eagles and Smith, their second-round pick in 2003, apparently will end when Smith's contract expires at the end of the 2007 season.
Smith and his agent, Brian Mackler, have tried to negotiate a long-term deal despite Smith's claims that he's not asking for the kind of contract he believes he could command on the free-agent market.
Talks, Smith said, have reached a stalemate.
The Eagles don't comment on contract negotiations, but consider that tight end Daniel Graham commanded about $15 million guaranteed from Denver and Minnesota signed Visanthe Shiancoe for $8 million guaranteed.
Neither had more receptions, yards or touchdowns than Smith did last season.
"I don't think they can sit here and say altogether what I've done wrong or what I didn't do," he said. "Every year stands on its own merit, and I just try to improve from year to year. I definitely asked what can I do from last year, and we went over the good points and bad points, and that's what I do."
The Eagles can thank Corey Simon, Terrell Owens and Duce Staley for Smith's participation in the recent minicamp. After watching those three gripe their way out of town, Smith said he never entertained the idea of holding out.
"I've learned holding out doesn't do anything around here," he said. "If anything, it darkens the situation. You may think you're bringing attention to yourself in a good way, but it doesn't help. That's definitely not an option."
The best Smith can do is hope the Eagles open up the pocketbook. If not, the upcoming season is his personal audition for 31 other NFL teams.
With four seasons under his belt, just two as a full-time starter, Smith ranks among the top six tight ends in Eagles history for catches, yards and touchdowns. Since 1992, he has the second-most yards after the catch, behind Chad Lewis, the man he replaced in the starting role.
His numbers dropped slightly from 2005 to 2006 -- by 11 catches, to 50, and 71 yards, to 611 -- but Smith still was among the NFL's top 10 in touchdown catches (five) by a tight end.
Attribute some of that dropoff to his increased blocking role as the Eagles morphed from a pass-first offense to relying more on a Brian Westbrook-powered running game.
Nobody can forecast coach Andy Reid's plan for the offense next season, but Smith has one objective -- to make it impossible for the Eagles not to up the ante.
"If things aren't getting done, or if things are still slow toward the end of the season, I want to make it so that people are saying, 'How come L.J. didn't get signed? He's a great player, how come it didn't [happen]?'
"Or if it does happen, I want them to say, 'Oh, man, I'm glad they kept L.J. He's definitely a good teammate and he's helped our team win ballgames,' and that's it. As a player, you just want respect from your peers, more than anything."
If it doesn't work out, Smith won't cry.
"Honestly, it's not in my nature or character to cry about anything. Just suck it up and move on," he said. "It's like crying about a girl who doesn't want me. You ask her out, and she either says yes or no. I'm in that position. Either the Eagles want to keep me, or they don't, and that's just how it is."
Contact Geoff Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org
Talks have reached a stalemate. Terrible news Eagles fans. Looks like L.J. will be the next Eagle to leave. The more he keeps talking, the less likely anything will get done either. Look on the bright side. At least Smith is not going Lance Briggs on us.
May 20, 2007
Funny thing about walls. They may make you safer by keeping people out, but it can get lonely when you realize those same walls are holding you in.
That seems to be about where Donovan McNabb finds himself. The Eagles quarterback took another step toward lowering - but not entirely demolishing - the wall that was constructed around him years ago. Just over a week after holding an off-campus series of media interviews, McNabb yesterday threw a getting-acquainted barbecue at a country club in Phoenixville.
If it seems a little strange to be getting acquainted with people who have covered your entire NFL career, well, you've got the idea.
"I don't feel I've got to change anything about the way I'm perceived," McNabb said.
"Hopefully, I'm perceived in a positive light. . . . A lot of people may just look at me as the quarterback of the team and leave it at that. They've got to understand that I'm more than just a quarterback. I'm a father, a husband, a caring person that loves kids, willing to do whatever I can do to help the next man out. If they are willing to look further into it, they'll see that I am a caring person."
In one breath, McNabb says the public would know the real him "if they are willing to look further into it." In the next, he pinpoints one problem as people "looking too deeply" into situations. This is his predicament, trying to reach out while not letting his guard drop entirely.
Up until he was let go by the team a few months ago, Rich Burg was McNabb's point man in the Eagles' public relations department. Burg handled McNabb's media requests, set up his interviews, and helped advise him on how to handle situations as they arose.
"I think you're always protective," said Burg, who is managing McNabb's current outreach program. "Especially with a guy that young (when McNabb first got here). How much do you let him talk to the media as opposed to spending time studying a playbook? Would I do it differently now? I don't know, but I did what I thought was best."
In fairness, some of the limitations on McNabb's availability were made necessary by the sheer media demand. It was easier on everyone to have him talk at a podium, with a microphone, than try to have a scrum of 40 or 50 media people around his locker every Wednesday. Most teams do something similar with their quarterbacks.
The unintended consequence, Burg said, was that McNabb came off as distant and removed. His goal now is to try to undo that as best he can, allow people to see McNabb more as one of the players instead of the face of the franchise.
"My goal is different now," Burg said. "Before I was doing what was best for the Eagles. Now I'm doing what's best for Donovan. Really, that's usually the same thing."
McNabb said he wasn't making an effort to prove he's his "own man."
"I'm my own man, anyway," he said. "This isn't a situation where I'm trying to stand out away from the team."
McNabb was standing on the driving range at RiverCrest Golf Club in Phoenixville, site of his first charity golf tournament, on June 15. The tournament (details are at donovanmcnabb.com and tickets are available via Ticketmaster) benefits the American Diabetes Association.
After mingling with reporters for an hour or so and then hitting a few tee shots for the TV cameras, McNabb talked on the record.
His rehab is coming along well, he said. He can run and cut and is working on deceleration and sudden stops. He said he would work in Arizona again this year and had promises from most of his wide receivers to join him. He said his relationship with Andy Reid was "better" than before.
The most intriguing stuff, though, was about the way he's perceived. That wall, again. One of the risks of being behind it is that it allows others - Terrell Owens, Freddie Mitchell, the media - to project a different image on the wall.
"Company man," anyone?
"Hey, to be in the company, you have to do what's right by that company or you'll be out of that company," McNabb said. "When you play the position that I play, you can be looked upon as that individual. If you portray me as the company man or part of management, I'm sure Peyton [Manning] gets the same thing. I'm sure [Tom] Brady gets the same thing. Carson Palmer gets the same thing. The list goes on of the franchise guys, because they say we get more things or better things than everybody else. . . .
"If someone feels some type of way about me, hey, I can't please everybody. But I know when I step out on that field, I'm going to give you all I got. That's all I ask. I don't ask you to hang out with me or come over and hold my baby or come sit down and have a drink with me. I don't say that."
Yesterday, he invited a bunch of reporters to come inside the wall and have a burger with him. It was a start.
On Andy Reid: "Our relationship probably is better than it was before. We were able to talk about a lot of different issues. Obviously, the issue we were faced with where we drafted a quarterback, that's probably what everybody wants to know. With the situation that he's been a part of with his family, I was there for him. Called him, texted him or whatever to let him know that if he needed anything, I was there.
"Again, people look too far into it. We talk all the time. I've been rehabbing there for the last four months, five months. We've been seeing each other and talking in passing. I've been talking with other coaches. I don't think anything has changed.
"If anything it has gotten better since this draft happened and after the situation with his family."
On his teammates: "My relationship with my teammates is the same as it was before. It's not like I'm passing around money to my teammates to try to make them be friends with me. We are employees. We work together. We bleed and sweat and cry together."
On his age, ticking clock . . . "I'm 30 years old. I feel young. I've played eight years. It's not like I've played 15, 20 years and they need to throw me out of this league. I've been eight years in the league, I'm 30, but I can't do anything about my age or how many years I've played. I think the best years are ahead of me. I don't get caught up in that whole 30 deal, where people say it's almost over. Warren Moon played until he was 42 years old. Brett Favre is 38. I'm sure probably there are people that want him to leave, but it's been 15 years for him, so obviously somebody still wants him."
"You want to be looked upon as a role model, a human being, a guy that works hard to be the best at what he can do, let alone win championships. Not everybody can win a Super Bowl, but, hopefully, we'll be able to do that this year and hold up that trophy."
Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or email@example.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.
McNabb just kills his critics with class. The same people who write that he should be out of town, he invites them to a barbecue, and just shows he is the bigger man. This should hopefully buy him good press for a week. Maybe two.
Labels: Donovan McNabb
May 18, 2007
by Brian Grummell
Alleged homegrown jihadis arrested more than a week ago considered the Army-Navy football game - one of college football's biggest rivalries - a possible target for attack.
Court papers said one of the arrested, in a monitored phone conversation, rued a missed opportunity to strike at the Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field, only a few miles from the site of Wednesday's meeting."
Hopefully they decided it's too hard of a target so we're not going to try it," said Leonard Bonacci, director of event services for the Philadelphia Eagles and who helps oversee security at the stadium.
Fortunately the appropriate authorities were alerted to the plotters before they staged their eventual planned attack on a New Jersey military base. News like this is a reminder that we live in an unsafe world and hopefully authorities can continue to provide appropriate security at college football games and all sporting events to deter such horrible events from ever happening.
May 17, 2007
Competition for jobs buoys Reid
Several spots, including defensive end, set for training camp battles
By GEOFF MOSHER, The News Journal
PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles' first minicamp ended Monday, but don't try to figure out who has the inside track on jobs, especially at defensive end.
A depth chart? Forget it.
For most of the three-day camp, Jevon Kearse practiced only in the morning, while Trent Cole and Darren Howard traded spots on the first team between the morning and afternoon sessions.
Who knows where Juqua Thomas, Victor Abiamiri and Jerome McDougle will be when the season opens Sept. 9 at Green Bay?
Not coach Andy Reid. He has three more minicamps and training camp to figure that out.
Reid craves this kind of competition -- good players pushing each other for playing time. It helps the team in the long run, he believes, even if the odd men out wind up elsewhere.
"I think as long as the unanswered questions, you have good answers for when
it's all solved, then that's a good thing," he said. "I think we have good
players in competition with one another. I guess time will tell on that, but I
think that's the important part."
"I told the guys that it's open," Reid said. "They understand that there is
great competition that will do nothing but make us better. So, there are a few
different positions out there that will be challenged. I think that's healthy
for the football team"
The only lock is Kearse, at left end. The Eagles brought him here in 2004 to harass quarterbacks.
And though he hasn't registered a double-digit sack season in Philadelphia, he notched 3.5 in fewer than two games last season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
"I'm looking forward to getting back on the field," Kearse said Monday, "and back toward 100 percent."
Who starts opposite Kearse at right end is still undecided and won't be determined until training camp.
Reid said Howard, another big-money defensive end, played at a Pro Bowl level early in the season but wore down from tendinitis in both knees. Cole, who had five sacks after three games, fell off when he took Kearse's spot in the starting lineup and finished with eight sacks.
The Eagles Web site depth chart, which is unofficial, lists Cole ahead of Howard. When asked about the competition, Cole took it all in stride.
"You got to get in where you fit in," he said.
Howard isn't panicking.
"I think teams just do what they feel is best for the team at the point and time when they're making decisions," Howard said. "You try to make the best decisions for your team right now and let the chips fall where they may."
Besides, Howard added, snaps are generally divided equally among defensive linemen in the Eagles' frequent rotation. Each player gets a chance to make his case.
"Don't get me wrong; [there is] a difference between starting and not starting, but it's not as big as other teams," Howard said. "Everybody plays a lot of reps. I even get extra reps on the inside on the nickel and dime [defenses], so it's not as big of a deal here as it would be somewhere else."
The Eagles' best pass rusher in the second half of last season, Thomas, is unlikely to become a starter this season. Three of Thomas' career-high six sacks came in December, when the Eagles went 5-0 to win the NFC East. He twice sacked elusive Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, but he's earmarked for a reserve role.
As for Abiamiri, a second-round pick out of Notre Dame last month, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said he's "picking up the system very quickly."
Where does that leave McDougle? The former 15th overall draft pick barely played last year after missing all of the 2005 season to recover from gunshot wounds he suffered during a robbery just before training camp began. His time is running out, and he knows it.
"My whole career has been pretty much filled with injuries," McDougle said. "I'm just trying to control what I can control. I really don't think about it [the competition]."
Contact Geoff Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looks like it's Darren Howard vs Trent Cole. I think Cole wins here, because he just seems to play with hunger, and is a very high energy guy. I think Howard's best days are behind him, and less snaps would be helpfull for him.
If the Eagles can get back to that rotation they had early in the year, with the defensive line, then it really wont matter who the starter is. The run defense suffered, when they got away from that.
I see McDougle knows he is toast as well. I'm sure they can find a nice job for him handing out gatorade.
By STEVE KING
AS A YOUNGSTER at Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland, Colo., Jeremy Bloom was always told he'd never be able to play multiple sports once he got to high school.
He proved that wrong, balancing football, skiing, track and field and karate.
At 15, Bloom became the youngest person to join the U.S. freestyle ski team. As a senior, he earned all-state honors in football as a wide receiver and helped lead Loveland High to a state title.
But surely, no college coach would allow one of its football players to ski on an Olympic level and play football.
That was the opinion of several of his peers, teachers and coaches, but not Bloom.
"He just never believed it," Bloom's mother, Char, said of her son, who is entering his second season with the Eagles after being selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft out of the University of Colorado. "I think that was a function of us as a family, believing that we can do anything if we worked hard enough at it and had a passion for it."
Proving doubters wrong has become a lifelong theme for Bloom. Now he's ready to take on his next obstacle as he enters training camp fighting for more than a special-teams role on the Eagles' roster this season.
Although Bloom missed the entire 2006 season after being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury suffered during training camp, his passion and determination forced him to get in better football shape. Bloom admits he was stubborn last year, feeling as if he could play through injury, constantly believing he was in better physical shape than he actually was. He quickly realized the difference between skiing shape and football shape.
"Compared to this time last year, it's like night and day," Bloom said after the
Eagles' wrapped up their first minicamp Monday at the NovaCare Complex. "If I
had taken the appropriate time off last year, I would have been fine. It's all a
learning experience, and one that I am glad I went through because I feel as if
I am a totally new player this year."
It wasn't Bloom's 458 yards on 24 receptions in two seasons (2002, '03) at Colorado that made him a household name in his home state. It was what he was doing on the slopes at ski resorts across the country and around the world that was giving him notoriety.
Bloom, who started skiing under the instruction of his mother at the Keystone Mountain Resort in Colorado when he was 11, was the No. 1 ranked men's moguls skier in the world by the time he was 19. He won the 2002 U.S. nationals and placed ninth at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Consider too that he hosted his own television show on MTV and was a model for Tommy Hilfiger Jeans alongside President Bush's niece, Lauren, Bloom was already a full-time celebrity before he could legally drink.
Despite the exposure, Bloom said he never felt any pressures to live up the hype, and that remains true now as he focuses solely on football. He said he has learned to deal with the pressures that arise in football from competing under stress as a skier.
"Pressure is just an outside force going against you," Bloom said. "As long as you can stay within yourself and do what it is you know you can do, pressure will never affect you."
After being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for accepting ski-endorsement deals, Bloom continued to dominate the slopes for another 2 years, winning the 2005 World Cup overall championship and tying the record for the most consecutive World Cup wins, with six.
It was his dominance in one sport that reopened his passion for another. By the end of the 2006 Winter Olympics, where he finished sixth in moguls, Bloom had affirmed football as his top priority despite just 2 years of collegiate experience. He then began a quest toward his new challenge, the NFL.
"Jeremy doesn't do anything less than 150 percent," his mom said. "He has such a huge determination. Sometimes I wonder where he gets it from. I don't know anyone who has his type of drive inside or outside our family."
It sometimes amazes Char when she looks back and recalls the way Jeremy was able to balance a competitive athletic schedule, a superior social life and his school work as a youth. She said through all of his activities, the youngest of her three children, just wanted to be a normal child. He even turned down an opportunity to attend Lowell Whiteman, a prestigious boarding school in Steamboat Springs, Colo., which most full-time Olympic skiers attend, so he could be closer to his family and friends.
"That's the way he's always been," Char said. "We never pushed him to do any particular sport. In fact, I would have loved for him to have taken some time off."
Bloom said the absence of input from his family circle helped him, as he was able to make his own decisions at a young age.
"A lot of times you see so many parents with talented kids and they get overly involved with them, putting all this pressure on them, and the kid gets burned out and doesn't want to do it anymore," Bloom said.
While Bloom hasn't followed the typical route to the NFL, he believes he can take the things he learned from his time on the slopes and incorporate them on the football field, even though he hasn't played in a game since 2003.
"A lot of guys who are involved in a team sport are only motivated by another person's actions or someone else telling them to do something," Bloom said. "I'm a very self-motivated person.''
First-year special-teams coordinator Rory Segrest said Bloom came into minicamp last week looking physically stronger and more mentally ready than he did last year.
"[Bloom] has come a long way,'' he said. "You can just see the strides he is making out there as far as fielding the ball goes. He has some great athletic ability and we're very excited about putting him out there in some live situations this year."
The coaches won't be the only ones eager to see him on the field. Jeremy's brother, Jordan, will start medical school at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in the fall. With an aunt and uncle already living in the Philadelphia area, Bloom is sure to have a strong support cast once the team reports to Lehigh at the end of July.
At 5-9, 180, Bloom says he wants to help the team in more ways than just on special teams, even if it takes some time. He says he has improved his route running and understanding of the game to the point where he feels he can compete for a receiving position.
"I know it's not in my control as far as where I'm going to line up, but what is in my control is for me to go out there and show them what I can do, period," Bloom said. "I know we have a lot of talented receivers so it's totally in their hands. All I can do is show up at practice everyday, work my hardest and prove myself."
Something he's been doing all his life. *
Labels: Jeremy Bloom
May 16, 2007
Posted May 15, 2007 - 12:43 PM
I remember prior to the one Packers Super Bowl Championship season under Mike Holmgren, that the head coach came out at the start of the training camp that season and proclaimed that they were going to run the ball on everybody. He said this with MVP quarterback Brett Favre lining up behind center. Holmgren had been frustrated year after year by the Dallas Cowboys and their power running game. Holmgren and the Packers dedicated themselves to the run that season, a young Dorsey Levens ran for over 1500 yards, and the Packers dominated the league and won a Super Bowl Title. Maybe last year's stretch run by the Birds reminded Reid of that training camp and the emphasis on running the football.
With last season in the rear view mirror, the most recent draft concluded and last weekend's mini-camp completed, you can see that the Eagles are emphasizing running the football much more now, than they have in the past.
Nothing teaches better than practical knowledge. For years fans and media types clamored for Andy Reid to get a big back to work along with Brian Westbrook, as well as begging him to not rely so much on the passing game. It fell on deaf ears, until Donovan McNabb went down with a knee injury and the Birds had to rely on weak-armed veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia to lead the Birds to victory. Andy Reid saw what the running game did for the offense, as the Eagles put together a five-game winning streak, which allowed them to capture another divisional crown.
Big Red seems now to be convinced that a running game can bolster the Birds already potent air attack, when Donovan McNabb gets back under center. He had to remember the way Holmgren emphasized the run during the Pack's Super Bowl year. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who took over calling the plays a year ago, concurs. Marty's decision to center the offense around Westbrook was the decision that turned the 2006 season around. He's brought a new way of thinking to the Eagles and most importantly he has the trust of Reid.
You can see their new thinking most of all, when you examine what they did in the draft. The Eagles selected two big backs in Penn State's Tony Hunt and Hawaii's Nate Ilaoa as a testament to that new mindset. They also drafted a big physical tight end in Brent Celek, who may be more of a blocker than pass receiver. You'd have to be blind to not see that the Eagles are a different team from the standpoint, that they have now made more of a commitment to the running game. No longer do they plan on throwing the ball 40 to 50 times a game. They're much more interested in passing it 30 to 35 times a game and running it a bit less, say 30 to 35 times. They'll keep the throwing under 55% and the running over 45%.
It makes sense because of the team's strengths. In the past Donovan McNabb had to carry the offense on his back. People try to point the finger at McNabb when the Eagles lost the Super Bowl to New England but Donovan threw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns despite not having much of a run threat, as Westbrook was held to a little over 40 yards on the ground. The Eagles didn't emphasize running the ball during those days and that's why they could afford to line poor run blocking Hank Fraley up at center and smallish guard Artis Hicks. Richard Seymour destroyed both of them and that put the entire weight of the offense on McNabb.
That has changed dramatically because the Birds present offensive linemen are all big and physical, especially in the interior. With All-Pro Shawn Andrews at right guard, power blocking Jamaal Jackson at center, and big physical Todd Herremans at left guard the Birds are as big and physical inside, as anybody in the league. There's no question that they now have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. You can see that they plan on using it.
The new offensive mentality will place more importance on the abilities of Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter. Buck told the media this weekend, that Marty let him know he's going to get more carries. That makes sense because I don't think the Birds want to hand the ball off to the diminutive Westbrook, any more than they did a year ago. That's why Correll was informed of his new role, and that's why Hunt and Ilaoa were picked up in the draft. It's also why they didn't mind letting Garcia go and resigning the lesser priced A.J. Feeley as their backup quarterback. I think wisely realize Feeley can be just as effective as Garcia if he's given the same rushing attack to hide behind.
I like this new Eagles mentality because by building a strong running game, they're also putting themselves in position to battle the big, physical AFC teams, if they're fortunate enough to get to the Super Bowl. Now with a new found running game, which has both speed and power components, they can take pressure off of McNabb and ask him use the deep throwing arm and playmaking ability only a few times a game under optimum conditions.
May 15, 2007
Dead men walking?
Even if they are, there isn't much Ryan Moats and Jerome McDougle can do about it, except work their hardest and hope for the best.
Moats and McDougle don't seem to figure into the Eagles' 2007 plans, unless other players are injured or they are able to produce some sort of miraculous, 11th-hour revival of their faded promise.
Moats is a running back the Birds drafted in the third round out of Louisiana Tech in 2005. At the time, the team was going through a contentious contract negotiation with Brian Westbrook and it seemed that Moats might be groomed to replace Westbrook, as early as 2006. But Moats was ill-prepared for the West Coast offense. The team reached agreement with Westbrook on a new deal late in the 2005 season, amid behind-the-scenes grumbles that Moats still couldn't figure out where to line up or whom to block. Those concerns persisted through last season, when Moats barely saw the field after running into punt returner Dexter Wynn in an Oct. 15 loss at New Orleans, causing a critical fumble.
Since last season ended, the Eagles have re-signed running back Correll Buckhalter and drafted both Penn State running back Tony Hunt, in the third round, and Hawaii running back Nate Ilaoa, in the seventh round. The only departure so far is the decision not to bring back running back Reno Mahe, who is a free agent. Moats might be able to eke out a roster spot, if Ilaoa ends up on the practice squad or something, but he seems further from a prominent role than ever.
McDougle looms as the biggest draft-day mistake of the Andy Reid era. The Birds traded up from 30th to 15th overall in the 2003 draft, spending a second-round pick in the process, just to nab the defensive end from Miami. Injuries limited his progress before a gunshot wound cost McDougle the 2005 season and perhaps much more; when he returned last season, a strong training camp start quickly fizzled after a rib injury, and McDougle failed to win playing time on a struggling defensive line. He played in 14 games but managed just one sack, the third of his career. There was a perception that McDougle was just happy to be alive, that maybe his intensity wasn't what it had once been.
Moats might have a little better chance to stick around - he has burned fewer chances than McDougle, and his position isn't as logjammed as defensive end, where second-round draft pick Victor Abiamiri gave the Birds six defensive ends, all except McDougle and the rookie signed long term. McDougle is entering the final season of his original contract.
Yesterday, when Reid wrapped up the offseason's first minicamp for reporters, he was asked a question about McDougle, third-year linebacker Matt McCoy and Moats. Maybe Reid just didn't hear the question completely, but his answer defended McCoy and Moats while making no mention of McDougle.
"Ryan has done nothing but improve throughout here," Reid said of Moats. "He's a snap away from having to be in there and playing full time, and that's the way he's preparing himself."
Moats, 24, said he feels confident he can play elsewhere if he can't play here.
"It hasn't been an easy process," said Moats, who has gained 347 yards on 77 carries, 4.5 yards per carry, much of that in meaningless games. "I've done some good things on the field. Of course I want to play, but it doesn't happen that way all the time. This is my situation, and I have to learn from it and grow. I think I have. I'll be ready."
McDougle, 28, said he can "only do what I can control and that's go out there and practice hard."
McDougle knows his situation, though, knows he is unlikely to suddenly find traction here in a fifth Eagles season. Asked if he sometimes wonders if he'd be better off starting over elsewhere, McDougle said: "Well, you said it, I didn't say it. The only thing I do is just keep practicing hard, make sure I'm in my best physical shape I can be in, make sure I'm healthy, keep doing what the coaches ask me." *
James: I'm A Starter, Period
May 14, 2007
By JOHN CLAYTON
After spending half of last season with no team and a career in limbo, logic would tell you William James should just be happy to be on a football field again. James, however, is slightly more ambitious.
James stated bluntly on Monday he is healthy and ready to resume a career that took a disastrous turn in 2003 when the former Giant suffered a devastating lower back injury that almost cost him his career. More importantly, James stated frankly his objective for the season.
"I want to be a starter. Period," James said.
That statement might sound rather stirring to begin with. But James' aspirations don't end there.
CB William James -
"I want to be the best cornerback in the league," James said. "And this camp was
definitely a good start to that."
That's boastful coming from a player who played in only six games over the past two seasons, including just four of ten games after signing a free agent contract with the Eagles last October.
James was used primarily as a nickel corner, although he did see extended playing time in place of an injured Lito Sheppard in the Eagles Divisional Playoff loss against New Orleans.
Sheppard's illness during this past weekend's mini-camp meant James spent most of the weekend practicing with the first-team defense.
Yet James is eyeing a more permanent appointment, and has the talent to back up his boastful claims. During his first five years with the Giants, James' talent and consistency earned him a spot as one of the league's most highly-regarded young corners. James has spent the last year doing Pilates to help strengthen his back, while at the same allowing the knee and calf injuries that nagged him last season to heal.
Now after signing a one-year deal with the Eagles in the offseason, James is finally healthy and ready to resume his rising career where it left off.
"Just saying 'Pro Bowl' lets you know my intentions," James said in a conference call after he agreed to terms on a one-year deal. "Obviously I'm not going to the Pro Bowl being a nickel back."
James appears to have told the world about his desire to start. But what about the ones who make the decisions-the coaches?
"I told the world," James said. "They're a part of that."
It seems Andy Reid and co. have gotten the message - even if it was given indirectly.
In early May, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson indicated the door was open for James to earn his coveted starters role. In a published report, Johnson heaped praise upon James, while stating that he expected James to push current right cornerback Sheldon Brown for starting time.
In his press conference Sunday, Johnson was more diplomatic, although he continued to extol the efforts of James.
"(William) looks good," Johnson said. "If you watch practice, you can see he's
making plays. Will is a heck of a corner. He's a battler and he looks good. He's
going to help us."
Although Johnson's statements appear to open the door for the impatient James, the corner didn't seem to take much stock in his coach's comments. James said his play on the field would leave his coaches without a decision to make.
"I'll decide that," James said. "My confidence comes from within. Whatever the coaches say that's their thing, I just got to go take care of things on the field.
"Whatever I have to get through to get to my goal I'll go through."
CB Sheldon Brown Right now, what James has to get through to reach his goal is Sheldon Brown, who is entering his sixth year in the NFL and has spent the last three seasons starting at right cornerback. In addition Brown appears to be part of the Eagles' long-term plans-he is under contract until 2012.
Though it's impossible for Brown not to hear the ambition exuded from his defensive backfield mate, Brown downplayed the competition at his position as something he's grown accustomed to over his career.
"Every year it's a competition," Brown said. "You're saying every year I started here it was just given to me and we've been going to the playoffs? I don't think so. We all play the game and every year I'm fighting my butt off to keep a job.
"When you think your job is a lock, that's when your game falls apart."
For the time being, the problem of three starting caliber corners is one the Eagles are undoubtedly glad to have. Yet from a more personal standpoint, it's apparent James is committed to his desire to start in 2007.
"I don't deal with doubt, fear, none of that. I know what I've come through. All I see is the end," James said. "I've always been a starter since the first time I was on the field in New York. I was a starter then and I'm a starter now, period."
James is pretty cocky isn't he? Is this the same Will James(Peterson) who was cut by the Giants, and the Eagles picked up off the street? Sheldon may have not had a great year, but I don't see the often injured James taking his spot. At least I don't think he could. I guess cofidence, and competition is a good thing. This starting talk, just seems a little suprising to me.
May 14, 2007
The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback has rehabbed vigorously since a knee injury ended his season in Week 11 last year. He’s running and throwing and is on course for a complete return when players report to camp on July 27.
“He’s been throwing once a week, and he looks good in that area,” coach Andy Reid said Monday after the team completed its first minicamp. “Progressively, he’ll be given more days where he can get out and throw, and he’ll continue his rehab. The closer we get to camp, he’ll be back to full speed. So, we’re expecting him, when camp starts, to be able to participate.”
McNabb is spending a lot of time at the team’s practice facility, but also will rehab at his home in Arizona part of the summer. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Nov. 19. It was the third time in five years that McNabb’s regular season ended in mid-November.
“You want to give the surgery time to heal and not stretch anything out there that you just tightened up,” Reid said. “So, that’s the part that takes the time.”
When the Eagles hold their first practice of training camp, it’ll be exactly eight months to the day McNabb had reconstructive knee surgery. The season opener at Green Bay on Sept. 9 will be 9½ months post-surgery.
Quarterback Carson Palmer started Cincinnati’s first game last year just eight months after he tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and dislocated his kneecap in a playoff loss. Palmer played every game for the Bengals, throwing for 4,035 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Daunte Culpepper’s return from a major knee injury wasn’t quite as successful. Culpepper tore his anterior cruciate, medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in a game with Minnesota on Oct. 30, 2005. He was traded to Miami and started the season opener but clearly wasn’t the same player and played just four games.
McNabb was having one of the best statistical seasons of his eight-year career before he got injured. He finished with 2,647 yards passing, 18 TDs, six interceptions and a passer rating of 95.5.
The Eagles surprised quite a few people, including McNabb, by picking quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round with their first selection in last month’s NFL draft. However, there is no quarterback controversy. McNabb is the starter for as long as he stays healthy.
Great news! Let's all pray this stays true.
Labels: Donovan McNabb
Tight end in a tight spot
By Bob Brookover
Inquirer Staff Writer
The Eagles have a decision to make about L.J. Smith, and they're running out of time to make it.
Smith's agent, Brian Mackler, has had contract talks with the Eagles over the last few seasons, including some discussions at the end of last season. The sides have never really come close to an agreement on what Smith is worth, and it appears as if the fifth-year tight end is going to enter into that thing known in professional sports as "the contract year."
"Obviously, it's very important, but . . . it's something you can't control as a player," Smith said yesterday as the Eagles continued their three-day minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. "It's pretty black and white. It's either they're going to pay you or they're not. You hope your agent can get it done, but sometimes it's even out of his hands. . . .
"I can show my talent to the world and the rest of the league, and whatever is supposed to happen will happen."
That's a healthy attitude for a player going into the last year of his contract, but it's not the approach that has always been taken around here. Smith, who returned to practice yesterday after missing Saturday's workouts because he was sick, has decided against following the same path traveled by some of his former teammates.
As a rookie, Smith watched running back Duce Staley and cornerback Bobby Taylor boycott voluntary minicamps in the spring. Staley extended his holdout into training camp.
Since then, Smith has watched wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive tackle Corey Simon and running back Brian Westbrook all protest contract situations by staging minicamp boycotts, training-camp holdouts or both.
Westbrook was the only player from that list who received a contract extension from the Eagles. It's obvious that overt protests do not send management rushing to the negotiating table.
"The smart ones learn from other people's mistakes," said Smith, who turned 27 yesterday. "I'm under contract, so I'm going to play it out. I'm not one for all the controversy. I'm going to come in here and practice hard and play hard and try to help this team win a Super Bowl."
Smith, who will make $920,000 this season, may be among the most underrated tight ends in the league. In his second season as the Eagles' starter in 2006, he ranked 10th among NFL tight ends in catches (50), 12th in receiving yards (611) and was tied for seventh in touchdowns (five).
His receiving production declined after Donovan McNabb went down in the Eagles' 10th game against Tennessee, because the team started relying more on the running game. But Smith showed vast improvement in the blocking department during that stretch when the Eagles reeled off six straight wins, including a playoff victory over the New York Giants.
"I don't know how I'm rated on that tight-end chart," Smith said. "I know I'm not a secret around the league. I know I'm respected. I pray that, hopefully, things will work out here. This is a great football city, and everybody that plays here wants to play here. You don't hear people saying, 'I can't wait to get out of Philly.' They make it a great place to play while you're here."
Jason Witten, who was in the same draft class as Smith, signed a contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys last July that was worth $29 million over six years and included $12 million in bonus money.
Witten has been to three Pro Bowls and has 847 more career receiving yards than Smith, who was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl last season. Smith has the same number of career touchdowns as Witten (14) and averages more yards per catch.
What's that worth to the Eagles?
Maybe it will all depend on what Smith does in the fifth and final year of the contract he signed after he was selected in the second round of the 2003 draft. Maybe it will depend on how Brent Celek, a fifth-round draft pick out of Cincinnati, performs during his rookie season.
Smith just wants to make sure that he has the kind of season that will leave people asking, "Why didn't they re-sign him?", if it doesn't happen.
"That's all you want," Smith said. "You want to put your best effort out on the field and have people respect it."
Good to know he has a positive approach to the situation, but it seems like they must be far apart in numbers, since we keep hearing public reports about this. The Eagles have plenty of cap space to lock up some talent, so why not throw a bone to L.J.?
By NICK FIERRO
PHILADELPHIA Despite the claims of his new head coach, Saverio Rocca's biggest adjustment in switching professional sports at age 33 will be extreme inactivity.
"There is a lot of down time and it's something that I'm going to have to get used to," the aspiring Eagles punter said of his first American football practice at minicamp on Saturday. "... We were standing on the other side (of the practice field), just waiting for our turn to come up. We were over there for an hour.
"It just seems like it's laid-back for the kickers, and all the other guys were busting their bums out there doing their work."
Rocca, a phenomenon in Australian rules football for most of the 1990s and the earlier part of this decade, decided last year that he wanted to give the NFL a try. He worked out for a couple of teams before signing with the Eagles not long after their season-ending playoff defeat in New Orleans.
Saturday, he did nothing to diminish the legend he carved for himself in Australia as one of the most powerful kickers in sports. Not all of his punts were better than incumbent Dirk Johnson's, but a good many were both longer and higher than any the Eagles have seen in a long time.
"I thought he did a nice job," coach Andy Reid said. "He has to be more consistent. This is the first time he had a football helmet on. It is a little different experience, but he sure is a competitor. He was a great player in Australia. We'll just see how he does here."
Rocca has a ways to go before earning a spot on the final roster, though. As Reid pointed out, in addition to wearing a helmet for the first time, Rocca has yet to face a live rush or even strap on pads.
Plus, until he faces game situations requiring directional kicks, nobody knows if he'll be able to master that, either.
Yet his all-around athletic skills remain intriguing, to say the least. Having played the Australian game, which is a tad more brutal than the brand played here, Rocca is a full-contact beast of a man at 6 feet, 4 inches and 255 pounds. He can kick on the run or just run without kicking it and dare tacklers to take him down.
None of those options have been discussed yet, according to Rocca, because he's still just trying to learn the American game.
Back home, he led the Australian Football League in goalkicking 10 times in 15 seasons, although he was dropped in his final season to the North Ballarat Roosters of the Victorian Football League, a minor-league affiliate of the AFL.
As an NFL punter, he could have plenty of prime years left if he proves he can play the game. "That's my aim," he said. "I'm not here just filling time. I want the job and I'm going to do everything I can to get it."
After 15 years of mostly star status in Australia, Rocca wouldn't mind the relative anonymity of being an NFL punter. In fact, he would prefer a lower profile at this stage of his career. It's one of the main reasons he came over.
But his primary motivation was fear of regret.
"There are a couple Aussies over here that are doing it," Rocca said, "and I know that I've got a good leg and can boom it a long way, so I thought I'd give it a go. I didn't want to wake up 20, 30 years from now wondering if I could have done it."
Nick Fierro can be reached at 800-360-3601 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Dirk might be in trouble. I keep hearing great things about Rocca. they say his hang time is rediculous. I'm all for improving the team un any way. Dirk was just below average last year, and having a good punter can be an undervalued weapon. Here is a video of Saverio, and his brother in the AFL. Not the NFL, but just watch Sav boot the football. Dude can kick.
May 13, 2007
May. 12 - 6:03 pm et
Bethel Johnson has a stress fracture in his foot and will miss minicamp.
Johnson is a longshot to make the Eagles. He'll have to avoid his usual injury problems for a chance.
Looks like a big break for Jeremy Bloom. No pun intended.
May 12, 2007
Linebacker has a role model in the secondary.
By Bob Brookover
Inquirer Staff Writer
Jeremiah Trotter already knows how he wants the story of his 2007 season to unfold, and he's not afraid to admit that he intends to plagiarize the work of a teammate.
He wants to duplicate Brian Dawkins' experience.
"People were saying he was done two years ago," Trotter said earlier this week.
"And last year, B. Dawk came back like a wild animal. To me, he should have been
in the top two or three vote- getters for defensive player of the year. Even
when we were struggling on defense, he was the one guy that played week in and
week out. That's an example of how you can turn it around."
The Eagles middle linebacker realizes that there's a growing population out there that believes his best days are behind him and that 2006 signaled the beginning of the end of an NFL career that has already spanned eight seasons, half of which landed him a spot in the Pro Bowl.
"I had a bad year for me," Trotter said. "It was an average year. It was great at times, but by the end of the season, I got worn down a little bit. The Eagles' fans and the organization were used to seeing me play at a high level, so when you don't have a great year, there are going to be questions. The knee issue comes up and people start talking about your age.
"I'm still young. I'm only 30 years old. I'm not worried about my knees. I'm excited about this year and I feel great."
The next three days should be interesting because the post-draft minicamp, which begins today at the NovaCare Complex, always offers the first glance at how the coaching staff plans to use its players for the coming season. Everything, of course, is subject to change once the pads go on in training camp and the preseason games take place, but this is where the initial plan is hatched.
Trotter will be lining up at middle linebacker this morning when the No. 1 defense takes the field. But he realizes he won't be on the field as much this season as he was last year, and he's fine with that.
"I think the goal is to have me average 2½ downs," Trotter said. "I'll be out
there on first down and second down and sometimes on third down, depending on
the situation. I'm sure any opportunity they can get to give me a rest, they're
going to want to do that. I'm thankful that they want to take care of my
A year ago, Trotter was on the field almost all the time. The plan was to use Shawn Barber in the middle on passing downs, but the veteran linebacker missed three games and had to leave a few others because of various injuries. Omar Gaither, who finished the year as the starting weakside linebacker, figures to be the middle linebacker on passing downs this season.
Trotter thinks he also wore down because the Eagles had such a difficult time stopping the run. They finished 26th in the NFL, allowing 136.4 yards per game.
"The more teams run the ball, the more pounding you're going to take," Trotter said. "I'm not getting any younger, but when you don't stop the run the way you're supposed to, teams are going to keep running it. I don't think I was the only player that got worn down last year. I think other defensive linemen and linebackers got worn down, too."
The Eagles believe help has arrived in the form of Takeo Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowler acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
"Oh, man, I was excited to get a player of his caliber," Trotter said. "I think teams felt like they had to put a body on me when they wanted to run the ball, and that's what happens when you play at a certain level. When you add a guy like Takeo Spikes, that's another guy who makes plays, and he's going to help me a lot."
Trotter also has tried to help himself this off-season by changing his workout schedule. Immediately after last season, there was speculation that Trotter had arrived at training camp overweight and out of shape.
"I rested a lot" after the 2005 season, Trotter said. "I was the only one on the team that went to the Pro Bowl, and then I had [knee] surgery right after the season, so my off-season was a lot shorter. My mind-set was to rest my body.
"What I learned from that situation is that there are other ways to rest your body. This year, I started working out a lot sooner. Three days after the season was over, I started working out with light weights and high reps. My weight wasn't as much a problem last year as my muscle mass being down. I wasn't as strong as normal, and I've always taken pride in my strength. This year, my muscle mass is back to where it usually is."
Now, Trotter and the Eagles are hoping the linebacker's elite level of play returns, too.
"I still believe with every bone in my body that my best years are ahead of me,"
Trotter said. "And this year, everybody is going to see that."
Trott can really make you a beleiver. He is a good talker, but take that with a grain of salt. I remember last year, he said his goal was to win defensive player of the year, and we saw how that turned out. We'll see what happens. I am still a big Axe-Man fan.