THE KNEE inflammation that took cornerback Lito Sheppard out of Sunday's loss to the Seahawks in the third quarter turned out to be not such a big deal. Sheppard, who missed four games earlier in the season with the medial collateral ligament problem, practiced yesterday.

"I'm livin'," Sheppard said, following the Eagles' first day of preparation for this week's visit from the Giants. "That's about all you can get right now. It's just like I said a couple of weeks ago - it's a long season, and something I'm going to have to put up with throughout, and just hope I don't have too many setbacks. But I'm all right."

Sheppard was burned for several completions in the Seattle game. Defenders on both teams had trouble reacting to offensive cuts on a slippery-wet, recently resodded surface; Sheppard, with the knee problem, seemed extremely tentative. At one point, as he came off the field, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson seemed considerably less than pleased with his play.

Sheppard said he couldn't discuss specifics of what happened against the Seahawks, or the degree to which he was feeling better.

"I'll be playing this week, if that's the question," he said.

Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and strong safety Quintin Mikell, who missed the Seattle game with MCL problems, both practiced yesterday as well, and are expected to return to the lineup this week.

With Mikell returning, the Eagles plan to try to move safety Marcus Paschal back down to the practice squad if he clears waivers, a source close to the situation said, so they can restore offensive tackle Pat McCoy to the roster. Apparently, Atlanta wanted to sign McCoy off the practice squad, but he said yesterday he would rather be on the roster here, and not go through the hassle of moving and learning a new system.

"It's nice, but it's not something you really want to deal with," McCoy said, when asked about other teams' expressing interest. "Too much junk you got to deal with. I just want to come to work and go home."

Justice deferred

After throwing those four picks Sunday, A.J. Feeley talked about how hard it would be to go back to the bench off such an effort, to be sitting on such a disaster indefinitely. Winston Justice knows how Feeley feels.

After throwing those four picks Sunday, A.J. Feeley talked about how hard it would be to go back to the bench off such an effort, to be sitting on such a disaster indefinitely. Winston Justice knows how Feeley feels.

The Eagles are hosting the Giants this week. The last time they met, Sept. 30 at the Meadowlands, Justice got his first start, with left offensive tackle William "Tra" Thomas sidelined by an MCL sprain. It didn't go well. Justice melted down completely, as Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora's six sacks led the Giants to a team-record dozen. The Eagles, also missing Brian Westbrook that evening to an abdominal problem, lost 16-3.

"It's been pretty hard . . . not getting a chance to redeem yourself," Justice said yesterday.

Justice said that in the wake of that game, offensive-line coach Juan Castillo didn't make him the scapegoat for a dreadful effort by the whole line, which was flummoxed by some new wrinkles the Giants' defense showed. New York leads the NFL in sacks, with 44.

"[Castillo said] we just need to get better, and he emphasized the 'we,' " Justice said. "It made me feel better, as a player - makes you feel like you're not alone in the situation."

Thomas seemed uncomfortable, being asked yesterday whether he felt that game illustrated his value. Thomas is 33 and Justice presumably was drafted in 2006 to be his eventual replacement.

Thomas didn't seem to want to say anything critical of Justice.

"I don't know," Thomas said. "I have to go out there and try not to let the same thing happen to me . . . That's tough; you're trying to do everything you can to stop them but nothing is working."

Thomas said he never spoke to Justice about the game, because "it was such a big deal and everything." He said Justice has worked hard in practice since then.

Birdseed

Running back Brian Westbrook (knee) was the only Eagle who didn't practice. Westbrook is being rested as the long grind takes its toll . . .

Running back Brian Westbrook (knee) was the only Eagle who didn't practice. Westbrook is being rested as the long grind takes its toll . . .

The Birds are 2-4 at home this season and were just 5-3 there last season, en route to a 10-6 record. Generally, you expect to do better at home than on the road, but since starting off 3-0 at home in 2005, the Eagles are 8-11 there. "We should be better," Andy Reid said. "We've got a great crowd that supports us. There's no reason we shouldn't be better there." Asked whether there was more pressure at the Linc, Reid said: "Our fans never boo or anything." Then he said he didn't think the crowd's demeanor affected his team. *