BETHLEHEM - It sure seems the Eagles will close the books on the Lehigh part of their 2008 training camp without Shawn Andrews ever taking the field.

The team hasn't said what the plan is for Andrews - when he reported to camp Sunday he might as well have checked into the witness protection program, as far as fans and reporters are concerned - but teammates expect him to join practice soon, probably when workouts resume at NovaCare on Saturday, following tomorrow's home preseason game against Carolina and an off day for players on Friday.

"Of course," center Jamaal Jackson said yesterday, when asked whether the starting o-line needs to work together before the season starts. "You can't go through the whole training camp without having a starter there. I think next week is when he'll start practicing, and we'll just take it from there. He's in good shape. His spirits are high. Y'all will see the Big Kid pretty soon."

Though offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg praised fill-in Max Jean-Gilles again yesterday, it will be an upset if Andrews, a two-time Pro Bowler, isn't at right guard for the season opener Sept. 7. Andrews has said he is suffering from depression, but is taking medication and is feeling better, allowing him to report.

Left tackle Tra Thomas also has missed time lately, with back spasms. Seventh-round rookie King Dunlap has filled in for Thomas, Winston Justice having officially been moved to the right side, as Jon Runyan's backup. Left guard Todd Herremans also has taken some left-tackle snaps. It's helpful to see the depth and versatility, but the "real" line needs its reps, too.

"That's important, having all five guys playing together with many reps, because it's critical that they play well together as a unit," Mornhinweg said.

Asked whether he thought Andrews would be ready to play by the Aug. 22 preseason game at New England, Mornhinweg said: "We'll see what happens there." He said Andrews' practice readiness is "a day-to-day thing."

Runyan, who was outspoken a few weeks ago about how he thought Andrews needed to get to camp, said it is important for the line to work together, but "he's working on some things, he's got to get through it. If you're not taking care of yourself, you're definitely not going to be the same football player you were, so you've got to get that part worked out."

Game situation

Young guys play video games, so, yes, there are Eagles who are excited about the debut of "Madden NFL '09."

"I'm probably going to get it [today]," wide receiver Bam Childress said. "I want to see how different it is, what teams I can use - it's going to be fun figuring out the ins and outs of the game."

Former Eagles safety Mike Lewis, an avid "Madden" player, used to familiarize himself with opponents through the video game.

Childress said he thinks his

"real" game might gain some benefit, but he thinks it mostly works the other way: "Playing football makes you a better 'Madden' player. You realize what coverages there are, what's open and not open, what you can run and you can't run."

Birdseed

Montae Reagor (knee), Tra Thomas (back) and Jamaal Jones (oblique) missed practice. Chris Clemons (calf) and Jason Avant (hamstring) left the morning workout . . . Marty Mornhinweg indicated Jed Collins is building a strong lead in the fullback competition against Luke Lawton and Jason Davis . . . Mornhinweg praised rookie wideout DeSean Jackson as "a natural player." *