THE BIGGEST CHANGE for Rory Segrest probably occurred yesterday when he made his media debut as the Eagles' special teams coordinator.

Last season as the special teams quality control coach and an assistant defensive line coach, Segrest would have needed permission to speak with the media.

Now, he will join offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and give weekly news conferences in the auditorium of the NovaCare Complex.

Other than that, "Coaching is coaching once you get into it," said Segrest, who takes over for longtime special teams coordinator John Harbaugh. "I've been a special teams coordinator before [at Samford University].

"Obviously here in the NFL, you've got a little bit better athlete to work with, but at the same time, once you get out there, you present a product that the players will buy in to, get the players to give everything they've got and get the job done."

Segrest, 33, who just joined the Eagles' staff last season, was in the right place at the right time.

After serving nine successful seasons as the Birds' special teams coordinator, Harbaugh wanted to diversify his resume and moved over to secondary coach.

Despite just 1 year of NFL experience, Segrest, who was an offensive tackle on the University of Alabama's 1992 national championship team, got the call to replace Harbaugh.

"I learned a lot from [Harbaugh] last year," Segrest said. "It was a great opportunity to be able to work with him.

"With what he has to offer, it would be crazy for me not to bother him as much as I can. We just want to be the best unit we can be, and it's whatever it takes to get that done."

Last season the Birds didn't give up a lot of big plays on special teams, but they didn't make a lot of big ones, either.

And honestly, with guys running around in shorts at this minicamp, it's difficult to say what kind of special-teams performers they might be.

Still, Segrest said he likes the basics that he is seeing.

"Right now, we're just trying to plug a lot of guys in," Segrest said. "As far as coverage down the field, we're fortunate that we brought in some guys with good size, good athletic ability, good speed.

"We've got a great combination of athletic traits in guys who we are going to ask to get down the field and make a play."

During this first minicamp, Segrest said the special teams are concentrating on punt protection. The coverage aspects will come later.

But all of it, right now, is about establishing a solid base.

"We've got a lot of new guys who are learning new positions," Segrest said. "There is a lot of technique involved and we want to get guys to where they are comfortable in their technique and believe in their fundamentals.

"As far as our coverage, I think the longest kickoff we gave up was 43 yards so we were fairly consistent in that area. But again, it's a matter of consistency, trying to get teams down inside the 25- and 20-yard lines. Obviously, you're looking to improve every year."

Like a lot of fans, Segrest said he would like to see the Eagles become a bit more electric in the return game.

The Birds haven't had a breakaway punt returner since Brian Westbrook became a full-time running back, and they have struggled with kick returns after the promising J.R. Reed had the devastating leg injury after the 2004 season.

"We want to try and be more explosive and create some big plays," Segrest said. "We were solid last year with [Reno Mahe], who had good hands and made good decisions for us.

"He could make the first guy miss and get 10 or 12 yards. He just wasn't a guy who you could consistently count on to take it the distance."

With free-agent returner/wide receiver Bethel Johnson not practicing because of a stress fracture, Jeremy Bloom, the Olympic skier who spent the season on the injured reserve list after being drafted in the fifth round last year, is the favorite to get the return job provided he has regained the form that made him a top kick returner at the University of Colorado.

Rookie defensive backs Rashad Barksdale and C.J. Gaddis also will be in the mix.

"Hopefully with the guys we have back there, with a little more speed we'll have the opportunity to break some of those things," Segrest said. "Jeremy Bloom has come a long way. He's made a lot of strides. He's got some great athletic ability and we're excited to get him out there in live situations.

"When we start working into our punt returns, we'll definitely get [Barksdale and Gaddis] back there and see what they can do with the ball."

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