It was coordinator day at NovaCare, the last scheduled news conferences for Jim Johnson, Marty Mornhinweg and Rory Segrest before training camp opens July 21 at Lehigh. Here are some highlights:
Johnson seemed quite impressed by the offseason improvement of defensive end Victor Abiamiri, who seems to be following the Brodrick Bunkley trajectory -- no impact as a rookie, suddenly becoming a guy they're counting on as a second-year player. Hey, it worked last year for Bunk. This will be addressed in more depth in Friday's Daily News, but Johnson said of Abiamiri: "He's a different person. He plays with a lot of confidence and he knows the defense. He's going to be on the field quite a bit."
Johnson also really wishes Lito Sheppard wasn't boycotting, because he has some packages he wants to work on with Lito, Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown all on the field at once, and he can't do that without Lito. Of course, right now he doesn't have Samuel either, since the big free agent acquisition tweaked a hamstring in Wednesday's workouts.
By the way, clearing up a lingering misperception in the media and maybe among the fans: Unless I missed it, nobody from the Eagles has said Sheppard will be a backup or a parttime player this season. Samuel will start on the left side, which has been Lito's job. But no one has said for sure that Brown will start ahead of Sheppard on the right side. And Johnson reiterated yesterday that in nickel situations, Brown would play inside, Sheppard outside.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg seemed to be trying not to give rookie wideout DeSean Jackson the big head, while making sure reporters understood that (pssst. -- looks like this guy can really play!)
Marty said that skill position players who contribute early in their careers tend to me "more natural-type players."
Asked how he'd define Jackson, Mornhinweg said: "I think he's a natural football player."
Just in case DeSean is reading this, Marty also said: "I think he's got a chance (to contribute on offense as a rookie). He's got a long way to go. A lot of hard work still left. However, he does have a really high skill and ability set. If everything goes well, if he does the hard work, puts in the time, puts the preparation in, he may very well help the football team."
The funniest part of Mornhinweg's session was when he was asked a series of questions about wideout Hank Baskett. Mornhinweg wanted to say that Baskett's lack of production last season wasn't Baskett's fault. But he kind of danced around it, because he couldn't bring himself to say: "For two thirds of the season our quarterback couldn't move and our tight end was hurt, so we kept running Baskett out there to freaking block, because he's really big and strong and the pass rush was killing us. Thank God he was willing to do it without complaining. He's a wonderful young man. This year we might actually be able to let him catch footballs again. We owe him."
Special teams coordinator Rory Segrest expects to have a way better return game this year, between Jackson returning punts and either running back Lorenzo Booker or rookie safety Quintin Demps returning kicks. The kickoff thing isn't set, but those are definitely the early leaders
By the way, meant to mention this when fourth-round rookie guard Mike McGlynn signed on Wednesday. Don't you think he looks a little like "Kevin" from "The Office"?
Finally, the Birds' front office can breathe easier now, knowing it's about to get the $769,120 owed by a former wideout. No, Todd Pinkston isn't offering reparations for the 2004 NFC Championship Game. But now that he has a new 4-year, $34 million extension from the Cowboys, the always gracious Terrell Owens plans to pay the money the league ruled he owed after being dismissed from the team in November 2005.