SKIPPING the current voluntary full-team workouts will not nudge Lito Sheppard any closer to getting traded, Eagles president Joe Banner said yesterday.
"He will be with us this year," Banner said of Sheppard, who has been seeking a trade because he is dissatisfied with a contract extension he signed 4 years ago, which runs through 2011. The week before the April 26 NFL draft, a Sheppard trade seemed a sure thing, but it didn't happen then - because the Eagles were asking too much, because teams were reluctant to give Sheppard a new, state-of-the-art contract after he missed 14 games the last three seasons, or because of some combination of those reasons - and, apparently, it won't now. Banner said nothing was happening on the Sheppard trade front.
Some Eagles fans think some sort of deal that would send the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback to Miami and net six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor would be a fine idea. Banner, speaking during a break at the team's annual Playground Build, this time at Bryant Academic Plus School at 60th and Cedar, wouldn't comment directly, but gave the impression that any effort the Eagles might make to land Taylor wouldn't include Sheppard.
Taylor turns 34 in September, making him nearly 7 years older than Sheppard. Taylor told reporters last weekend he intends to play only one more season. One of Sheppard's agents, Lamont Smith, is said to have visited with the Dolphins in April to try to ramp up their trade interest in Sheppard.
Meanwhile, agent Jeff Courtney said Eagles guard Scott Young had "personal reasons" for boycotting the optional workouts that continue through next week. Young, a fifth-round pick in 2005, slipped behind Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles on the depth chart last season, and saw the Birds draft guard Mike McGlynn (who signed yesterday) in the fourth round and guard Mike Gibson in the sixth.
Someone who knows Young said Young feels he began to fall from favor last August, when he was scheduled to start an exhibition game against Carolina but didn't play. Young's mother, Diane, was visiting from Utah and became ill that afternoon. Young took her to the hospital and stayed there through the game, something the Eagles did not publicly criticize him for doing.
Banner said he didn't know whether Young hoped to be released, so he could sign with another team before training camps open.
"You'd like to think a guy would want to come in and take on a challenge," Banner said. "It's hard to get into his head - even if you [don't like your chances of making the team], you still want to be working and getting better as a football player."
The Eagles have 88 players on their roster right now and will need to be at 80 by the time camp opens at Lehigh, July 21. They drafted 10 players, two of whom have signed. Once players sign, they count toward the 80-man limit, so McGlynn's agreement to a 4-year deal means they must cut somebody or put someone on an injured list before they sign any other draftees. Until this season, there were six NFL Europe roster exemptions that helped relieve the crunch.
Instead of trying to pack 86 players into their indoor facility yesterday morning, the Birds opted to practice between storms on the soggy NovaCare fields. Perhaps coincidentally (or not), prize free-agent acquisition Asante Samuel and second-round rookie wideout and returner DeSean Jackson both left the field after suffering what the team called "minor" hamstring pulls.
Samuel was not available for comment. Jackson, asked whether he would be sidelined for long, said, "I don't plan to be." He said the wet field "had something to do with" his injury.
Meanwhile, quarterback Donovan McNabb didn't seem to throw with a lot of zip. Wideout Kevin Curtis made an offhand comment about McNabb having some shoulder soreness. You might recall that McNabb didn't throw on the final day of the mandatory minicamp last month, officially because he'd reached his "pitch count" for the camp.
A team source close to the situation said nothing was wrong with McNabb's shoulder, and he took batting practice with the Phillies last night after visiting with Reds star Ken Griffey Jr. One of McNabb's efforts bounced into the stands after coming down on the warning track.
"In Little League, that's gone," McNabb said. "And in some softball leagues, that's gone."
Earlier yesterday, McNabb offered his thoughts on the NBA Finals. Like nearly everyone, it seems, McNabb likes the Lakers. "But if Pau Gasol plays as soft as he played against San Antonio," the Celtics could win, McNabb said.
That would be fine with Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie, who wouldn't predict a title for his hometown Boston team, but acknowledged he would be in the crowd for Game 2 on Sunday.