SHELDON BROWN didn't reply to a message, so it isn't known exactly what his thought process is. His actions would have to speak for him yesterday, when he didn't show up for the voluntary workouts attended by every other able-bodied member of the Eagles organization.

But this is not a big deal.

Not 6 weeks before the start of training camp.

Not 3 months before the season opener.

You write about it because it happened, which makes it news (and because the Phillies are on the West Coast and the Sixers and the Flyers are dormant, which means there is an absence of readily available other news). When you are the only guy on the team who doesn't show up, you stand out. When you have made quite public your desire for a new contract or a ticket elsewhere and you are the only guy on the team who doesn't show up, you merit a mention.

So, it is duly noted.

But it is not a big deal.

"Well, I want everybody here obviously," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Sheldon is doing what Sheldon thinks he needs to do. I wish he was here, yes."

Reid said he didn't really want to talk about it but did end up talking about it, a little. The coach said it is his understanding that this wasn't a 1-day thing but that Brown would be missing the rest of these workouts.

"Right now I can tell you that he probably won't [show], but that's up to him," Reid said. "You have to remember that these aren't mandatory camps, these are voluntary camps. He makes that choice."

The truth is, there is no reason for Brown to be here. The truth is, there is no reason for most of the veteran players to be here. This is a sport with a huge injury factor and a pitifully short offseason (especially if you make a long playoff run, as the Eagles did). Players spend more time in their practice facilities than they ever have. If for no other reason than mental health, everybody would be better off if they just shut this thing down a little more often.

But, then, what would they show on NFL Network?

This is an annual rant, but it deserves repeating: The NFL is too much. The players are stretched too thin. The whole notion, pushed by commissioner Roger Goodell, that the regular season should be longer in exchange for a shorter preseason, is crazy. These guys are barely vertical by December. Adding one or two more real games will stress their bodies beyond any reasonable limit.

Truth is, Sheldon Brown is just being smart here. He wants out and the only chance of getting out is if he is healthy. Guys get hurt in these faux camps all the time. They're noncontact by rule, but stuff happens. Brown does not need stuff happening, not if he thinks he has a chance of getting his wish.

Does he? Yes. There are a bunch of cornerbacks on this roster. As it stands today, he is second best after Asante Samuel - and that isn't likely to change, which works against Brown being moved. The idea that the team acquiring him would likely have to agree to redo his contract is also an obvious issue. But there are these other guys around, Ellis Hobbs and Jack Ikegwuonu and the like. If they show enough, there could come a time when the Eagles would consider a deal.

But Brown needs to be a commodity at that point. He needs to be healthy. It is only smart to maximize his health. Given all of that, missing a couple of fake and unnecessary practices in the first week of June doesn't mean anything.

Of course, Reid would disagree.

"I'm going to stay consistent with what I said and I believe it," he said. "If you're not here, then you give other people an opportunity to show it. I remember Jon Runyan saying that over and over for the last 10 years, or 9 years, or whatever it's been. He said, 'I'm not going to miss one snap because it gives another guy a chance to step in there.' I think that's how the guys think and really that's the truth. It's an obvious statement because it's the truth."

But this also is the truth, from safety Quintin Mikell. He said Sheldon Brown was a good teammate, that his situation was unfortunate, that he was doing what he had to do and that his teammates would do what they had to do in his absence.

And then, Mikell said, "When he comes, we're going to pick up right where we left off." *

Send e-mail to hofmanr@phillynews.com,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at http://go.philly.com/theidlerich.

For recent columns go to http://go.philly.com/hofmann.