THE INDIVIDUAL STALLS that line either side of the Eagles' locker room are marked with the players' nameplates. They are grouped according to position. The quarterbacks start one row, followed by wide receivers, linebackers, etc.

During these minicamps - or Organized Team Activities as they are more correctly termed - there are a lot of extra players, so more lockers are needed. That's when the team rolls in temporary stalls that are similar to small office cubicles.

It's like when your aunt Ginny and uncle Conrad visit for the weekend and their kids have to sleep in the living room. That's sort of what it's like for such players as running back Eldra Buckley.

Buckley is trying to make the Eagles' roster after being picked up on waivers from San Diego on March 9. The injury to starter Brian Westbrook has created a crack into which Buckley hopes to squeeze. OTAs are important to the Buckleys of the NFL world. Next month's formal training camps are crucial.

"I never want to see anyone get hurt, but if I get a chance, I'm going to go out there and do my best," he said after yesterday's practice.

The irony that Westbrook is battling an ankle injury shouldn't be lost on Buckley, whose college career closed with a whimper because of a bum wheel. He was well on his way to breaking his own single-season rushing record at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2006 when he got hurt. Instead of closing out with a flurry, his final game at UTC was a 55-0 loss to Wofford in which he carried twice for 5 yards. He only got into the game after the Mocs fell behind by 35.

So instead of getting drafted, he latched onto San Diego and spent two seasons on the Chargers' practice squad.

"The toughest thing was not being able to play; practicing all week and not being able to play," said Buckley, listed at 5-9, 207. "It was a tough thing for me, but I think I learned from it. It's made me want to work harder."

After Lorenzo Booker and LeSean McCoy, Buckley is jockeying for depth-chart positioning with rookie free agent Walter Mendenhall. He also will have an opportunity to work on special teams. Buckley has just one season of practice squad eligibility left, but he remains steadfast while sleeping on the couch of an NFL existence.

"The hard work will pay off," he said. "The hardest-working player will get his chance. And when you get your chance, you have to take advantage of it." *