Monday, May 15, 2006

Health Prognosis Looks Good For Eagles

The Eagles appear to be heading into training camp in relatively good shape health-wise. The team will meet again on June 5 for the beginning of a two-week voluntary camp that isn't very voluntary, especially if players are looking for playing time.
Coach Andy Reid said three of the four players who didn't participate in the minicamp, have a chance to be ready for the voluntary camp.
The three are cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard and wide receiver Todd Pinkston. Brown is recovering from shoulder surgery and Sheppard, who suffered a serious high ankle sprain that cost him the final six games, is recovering from ankle surgery.
Pinkston missed last year when he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during training camp.
The fourth injured player is more of a question, running back Correll Buckhalter, who has missed three of the last four seasons, including last year following knee surgery.
Still, Reid said Buckhalter is progressing well and that he would most likely be ready for training camp.
It's crucial that Sheppard and Brown return to form and if so, they could be among the better cornerback tandems in the NFC.
Pinkston, if fully recovered, gives the Eagles some much needed speed at a receiver position that is not considered a team strength at this point.
Buckhalter has ability, but any production the Eagles receive from him should be considered a bonus because of his injury history.
Teams that are successful in the NFL are the ones that limit injuries to a workable few. That wasn't the case last year for the Eagles, who placed 13 players on injured reserve and had four others on either the physically unable to perform or the NFL reserve lists.
So having a healthy team at least going into camp, is a must for an Eagles team that is hoping that it was snakebitten by injuries last year and won't have a repeat performance.

Eagles Looking Forward To Put 2005 Behind Them

The questions about T.O. and the rest of the disastrous 2005 season were fewer and fewer as the Eagles minicamp went on. For Eagles coach Andy Reid, this first minicamp was a time to put last season's 6-10 debacle well in the rearview mirror.
And he felt following the completion of the minicamp that the calendar has truly turned for the Birds.
"I feel like everybody wants to put it to rest," Reid said about last year. "They have all looked forward and are tired of the questions."
So are the people asking the questions. Of course, the whole spectacle of 2005, with the daily T.O. circus, won't be totally put to rest unless the Eagles resume their winning ways.
Still, Reid felt that there was much more outward passion shown at the first 2006 minicamp.
"They are out there, challenging each other which we didn't see early last year, talking back and forth between the offense and defense," Reid said. "...There is great competition for positions, great competition between the offense and defense and that is how you get yourself better as a football team."
This team is anxious to carve out its own identity because frankly, nobody wants to be identified with last year's team.
Reid and the players welcome all the questions about the 2006 Eagles because last year's version wasn't very entertaining or successful. That is why it has been easier for the team to look ahead, because taking a glance back is still pretty painful.

Newly Named Thomas Glad To Be Back

He has changed his name from Tra to William, although the newly named Williams Thomas says that was his name all along. What is more important is whether the three-time Eagles Pro Bowl left tackle is ready for the rigors of a 16-game NFL season.
Thomas underwent season-ending back surgery after being inured in the 10th game of the year against the New York Giants.
As the blindside blocker to Donovan McNabb, he is among the most crucial performers on the offense. And at least after minicamp, Thomas said things are going well.
"I think I'm 100 percent," he said. "This was a good minicamp to be in because I did a lot of movement and I'm feeling good."
Thomas said that he won't be able to tell for sure until the players put on the pads, but that he is pleased with his progress.
He doesn't mind talking about his back, just don't ask him about the name change. "William is my real name," he said.
What is more important is whether Thomas will be able to take the pounding on his 6-foot-7 and slimmed down 335-pound body. He will turn 32-years-old during the season, so nobody knows how much longer Thomas will be a fixture at left tackle.
With Jon Runyan, who will be 33 during the season, and Thomas at tackles, the Eagles have a lot of experience and mileage. They drafted Winston Justice and he'll likely be a starter by sometime next season. Still, it's tough to throw a rookie in the tackle position, which is why it's important that Thomas makes a complete comeback.
And if that happens, the questions will be about his game, not his name.

The Eagles Are Clearly McNabb's Team

There isn't a lot that can be determined at a minicamp where there is no actual hitting and much more fine-tuning. Still, one thing has become abundantly clear as the Eagles close out their first minicamp of the 2006 season - Donovan McNabb has assumed control of this team.
Of course, McNabb feels he never lost control, although that could be subject to debate. What can't be disputed is that he has gone out of his way this minicamp to show that he is a leader among the players.
While last year was tense from the first day of training camp due to McNabb's strained relationship with Terrell Owens, McNabb is back to being the guy who jokes with teammates, who offers an encouraging word to a fifth-string receiver, who congratulates players for good plays - in a 7-on-7 minicamp passing drill.
Physically, McNabb has looked sharp, this minicamp, but the biggest difference seems to be his mental outlook. No longer having to look over his shoulder at Owens or burdened by one insult after another from his former favorite target, McNabb looks comfortable. He has been in his element and it's clear from this minicamp that this is his team.
Now none of this may matter if he doesn't produce on the field, but at least McNabb seems to be relaxed, comfortable and ready to put the most miserable season of his football career clearly behind him.