On the eve of the first Eagles practices since the end of last season, Coach Andy Reid sat down for a wide-ranging talk about his team's pressing issues and the safety concerns that have moved to the forefront of the NFL conversation.
We talked about immediate questions, such as LeSean McCoy's contract, Brent Celek's surgeries and who starts at safety, as well as about the Saints bounties, DeSean Jackson and what the coach hopes to learn from the three-day rookie camp that begins Saturday.
We'll have a full story on the Reid interview Sunday and a piece on Jackson's advice to McCoy Saturday – here on Philly.com and in the Inquirer -- but here are a few highlights of the interview:
-- On Celek's health:
Reid gave an optimistic, though lightly detailed on his starting tight end after Celek had January surgeries to repair a sports hernia and torn labrum in his hip:
"He's actually doing very well," Reid said. Celek has been on the field for some drills, and will participate in at least some of the OTAs that begin May 22, Reid said. "We'll take it easy with him and see how he does.
Asked if Celek could participate in full, Reid said, "we'll just see how he does," but said he wasn't worried about the tight being ready for the start of the season.
-- On McCoy's contract:
"I know Howie and Drew have a good relationship, so they're working through things and I think something positive will come out of that," Reid said, referring to general manager Howie Roseman and McCoy agent Drew Rosenhaus. But does a deal have to get done before camp?
(UPDATED here with the full quote) "You want to make it right, so that's the primary thing," Reid said. "I don't think you worry about as much the other things, you just want to make it right so it's great for the player, it's good for the team, so that's where the negotiations come in and the ability to work together come in."
In a separate interview later Friday Jackson said he has advised McCoy to avoid the path he took – holding out. He said he hopes McCoy attends offseason practices that begin May 22 and the start of training camp.
"I think it would be in his best interest to come. In my eyes when I didn't come I thought it hurt me," Jackson said. (Not on the field, he said, but in getting negotiations done. He said he now knows trying to force the issue with the Eagles in public rarely works). We'll have much more on Jackson's advice to McCoy and reflections on his own 2011 season Saturday. (Update: here's the link).
-- Jackson seemed more relaxed Friday than at any time in the past two years.
"It was a tough year for myself, had a lot of struggles, had a lot of things that just took me off of my game and my focus. This year a lot of that has just been removed and I'm able to focus and be comfortable and be confident that I'm at a place where I'm wanted, and I just really want to be able to bring a championship to the city."
"Mentally he's in a good place," Reid said. "These are young guys and so you have that stress of the second contract, there's so much emphasis put on that, and so that part's been relieved from his mind, now he can just concentrate on football and doing that to the best of his abilities."
Jackson is hosting a free health fair Saturday at Triumph Baptist Church, 1648-52 West Hunting Park Ave. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will include cancer screenings and seminars, as well as dental and vision screenings and other services; it is run through Jackson's foundation that honors his late father, who died of pancreatic cancer.
-- On safety:
Reid talked up Kurt Coleman's experience and said the team "feels good" about his ability. As for adding a veteran, he said, "that's not where we're at right now, but we keep our eyes open on everything. It's kind of a fluid process as you go through minicamps and training camp you want to see how the pieces fit the puzzle."
Sounds like the team will see what it has in Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett before making any move. Special teams play could be a factor here, as well.
-- I asked Reid what he hopes to learn from the rookie camp beginning Saturday considering he'll have an inexperienced roster to work with, including players who are just going through the playbook for the first time:
"Number one they're going to get a ton of reps, so you'll see if they're comprehending what they're being taught by being able to function on the football field," Reid said.
He'll also see how well each player has mastered his techniques and find out how different players learn: verbally? Visually? By going through the plays on the field?
-- Lastly Reid endorsed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's crackdown on dangerous hits and the strong punishment he handed down to the Saints for their bounty scandal.
"I don't believe in that and I support what the commissioner did," Reid said.
Asked about the infamous tape of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams talking about hits to the head and knees, Reid said players don't act that way.
"Do they want to put a nice hit on somebody? Absolutely. Do they want to maim them, hurt them where they can't make a living? No. I see just the opposite," Reid said. "Guys don't want to ruin another man's career from being able to make a living, that's just not what happens."
Much more on our conversation Sunday.