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New Eagle missed by his old coach

PALM BEACH, Fla. - As free-agent signings go, the Eagles' addition of Chris Clemons last month did not create much of a frenzy.

PALM BEACH, Fla. - As free-agent signings go, the Eagles' addition of Chris Clemons last month did not create much of a frenzy.

In fact, the initial reaction for many Eagles fans was simply one word: Who?

On the other side of the country, however, the Oakland Raiders felt a real sense of loss when Clemons signed a five-year, $12.6 million deal to join the Eagles. According to a league source, the Raiders badly wanted to re-sign the 26-year-old defensive end, but he never gave them a chance. The source said that Raiders owner Al Davis tried to call Clemons but could not get through.

Clemons apparently had his mind made up that he was going to sign with the Eagles.

"We'll miss him," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said yesterday during an early-morning media breakfast. "He was a really phenomenal special-teams player for us early before he even started playing.

"He was out of football and then he came in and contributed on special teams right away. When he finally got his chance, he really did a great job for us rushing the passer on third down. He'll be a loss for us."

After being released by the Washington Redskins and sitting out the entire 2006 season, Clemons made a tremendous impact for the Raiders last season, tying former Eagles defensive end Derrick Burgess for the team lead with eight sacks, including six in the team's final eight games.

"I don't know what they're going to try to do with him, but it'll be interesting to see if they're going to transition him into an every-down player and take him off special teams," Kiffin said.

It doesn't sound as if Kiffin believes Clemons is capable of playing every down, although in his two starts with the Raiders last season, the defensive end had three sacks and a forced fumble.

"I think you have to help him out a little bit because of his size," Kiffin said.

Clemons, listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, is small for a defensive end. In fact, he came into the league with the Redskins as a linebacker. Clemons, however, is about the same size as Indianapolis' Robert Mathis, who began his career as a pass-rush specialist for the Colts but has started 28 games in the last two seasons.

A few tables away from Kiffin, New England coach Bill Belichick spent most of his early morning answering questions about the never-ending controversy about his team's questionable filming habits.

After revealing that he met a second time with NFL officials following the Patriots' Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, Belichick fielded question after question after question about still-unresolved accusations that a former team employee taped the St. Louis Rams' walk-through before New England's 2002 Super Bowl win in New Orleans.

"I don't know how the league could have done any more than what they did," Belichick said. "I've answered so many questions, so many times, so many different ways for so many different people. I don't know what more they could possibly do."

Given that line of questioning, Belichick was more than willing to answer a few inquiries about a couple of Eagles who used to work for him. He was particularly forthcoming about Dan Klecko trying to become a full-time fullback.

"Dan is an explosive guy," Belichick said. "He runs well. I know he has a boxy body, but he runs well, catching the ball, and he's a tough kid. He's football smart. I think he has the ability to do it. I think he has a lot of work to do, but I think physically he could do it."

Although fullbacks run the ball in the Eagles' offense about as often as head coach Andy Reid delivers a quality anecdote, they do sometimes have to play the role of receiver.

Klecko "has good hands," Belichick said. "He's not a receiver, but for a back . . . I'm not saying he's Kevin Faulk, but he's better than some I've seen. He can catch the ball. I don't think that's an issue."

Colts coach Tony Dungy also thinks Klecko can make the transition to full-time fullback.

"The challenge is really for him to visualize himself in that position and to give up the desire to play defensive line," Dungy said. "Our Super Bowl year, he was our fullback for 10 games. Skill-set wise, he can do it. He's very smart, he's got good hands, and he's a tough, physical guy."

Belichick was less willing to elaborate on the loss of Asante Samuel, the Patriots' Pro Bowl cornerback who signed with the Eagles.

"Asante did a good job for us," Belichick said. "In the end, he received a better offer from Philadelphia and we understand that. I think Asante is a good player. We did what we did and . . . I'm not going to talk about what somebody else did or didn't do or how somebody else will utilize him. We did what was best for our football team, but Asante did a good job for us."