AS LITTLE AS the Eagles tend to use their fullback, you would think they'd be less picky.
Yesterday, the team announced it had acquired fullback Luke Lawton from the Colts for a conditional draft choice. That means the Birds now have a quartet of players vying to succeed Thomas Tapeh, who was allowed to depart for Minnesota in free agency, at least somewhat because he couldn't contribute on special teams.
Another ex-Colt, Dan Klecko, has spent much of his career as a defensive lineman and is playing offense full time for the first time. Jason Davis spent 2006 on injured reserve and last season on the Eagles' practice squad. And rookie free agent Jed Collins signed out of Washington State.
The obvious conclusion would seem to be that the coaches haven't been that excited about what they've seen in full-squad "organized team activities" from Klecko, Davis and Collins. It has to look like a shot across the bow of Klecko to bring in another guy from the same team to compete for the position the Eagles signed Klecko to play.
Maybe that was why Klecko didn't seem particularly eager to discuss the matter with reporters yesterday.
"He's a good player . . . works real hard, good guy in the locker room," Klecko, a former Temple star as a d-lineman, said of Lawton, who entered the league with Buffalo in 2004 as a rookie free agent from McNeese State. Lawton, 6-foot, 240, appeared in 11 Colts games last season as a fullback, running back and special-teams player.
Klecko was asked whether adding Lawton would make the fullback situation a bit crowded.
"I don't know. You'll have to ask coach [Andy] Reid," he said.
Klecko repeated the same answer when asked whether anyone had expressed dissatisfaction with the fullbacks.
Davis seemed more at ease with the discussion.
"You've got to load up at every position, going into training camp," Davis said. "We had four fullbacks on the roster [before camp] last year, I believe."
"You've got to put yourself in [position] to where if something doesn't work out or somebody goes down, you have a backup plan," Davis said. "It ain't no slap in the face to Klecko or myself or Jedediah. He's just another guy coming in. We're going to teach him the offense, and we're going to compete. Competition breeds better athletes, a better position. Everybody on this team has competition."
Klecko, 5-11, 275, looked very much like a lineman trying to play fullback when the Birds held their first workouts the weekend after the draft. He seems slimmer and more nimble this time around. Davis, listed at 5-10, 245, has always looked a little lighter than his listed weight. He seems plenty nimble - the issue would be whether he's really a running back trying to be a fullback. Collins, listed at 6-1, 255, hasn't had much of a chance to make an impression yet.
Davis, who impressed coaches 2 years ago as an undrafted rookie from Illinois, was asked whether he had ever heard of Lawton.
"No, but I'm pretty sure he's never heard of me, either," he replied.
Believe it or not, that subject did not come up in Lawton's conference call with reporters. The Eagles seem to be emphasizing the issue of the fullback helping on special teams, and Lawton waxed enthusiastic.
"I actually love playing special teams," he said. "That's how I really got my foot in the door at Indianapolis, because they haven't carried a fullback in years. In preseason, I guess I played well enough to warrant a roster spot, just covering kicks and blocking on the returns. I even had five returns last year on the kickoff return team. I'm also a deep snapper. I kind of try and diversify some. I'm harder to get rid of come cut time."
Lawton didn't seem fazed by having to change teams in mid-minicamp, to compete with three guys who have a head start learning the offense.
"It's going to be like that, competing every year. You end up always liking the guys you're competing with, most of the time. I'm just going to go out there and worry about Luke Lawton and mowing my own grass," he said. "Don't worry about anyone else's yard, make sure mine's cut. Just try and do my job to the best of my ability, and let the chips fall where they may."
Lawton was equally optimistic about playing a position Reid seems to regard as the X-and-O version of steamed veggies.
"I've always been a fan of the Eagles. They have a good offense for a fullback. I've watched their fullbacks in the past and they've always seemed to get a few dump-off passes here and there," Lawton said. "I really like the chance to get in there as an every-down fullback. I think I can do well in an offense like that, just because of the fact that 2 years ago, the Colts were one of the worst in the NFL on third-and-short, and last year with a fullback we went to No. 1 in the NFL on third-and-1. So, there is still a place in the NFL for a fullback, whether people like it or not."
Because they are at the NFL roster limit of 80 signed players, the Eagles waived injured wide receiver
when they acquired
meaning Sampy gets an injury settlement . . .
, the former Kansas City tight end the Eagles signed, definitely has seen a few passes clang off his hands this week . . . Cornerback
remained sidelined by hamstring pulls . . . Quarterback
was asked about the difference between backing up
, as he is scheduled to do this season, and being the No. 3 quarterback, as he was as a rookie. "Things become a little more realistic, a little more tangible when you're No. 2," Kolb said. *