Jack Ikegwuonu wants both his legal and his leg problems behind him, and it's possible they could be in his rearview mirror by the time he arrives for the start of training camp late next month at Lehigh University.
The Eagles' second-year cornerback is scheduled to finally get his day in court July 2 in DeKalb County, Ill., where he and his twin brother, Bill, were charged with residential burglary and criminal trespass Nov. 26, 2006.
"It has lingered for a long time," Ikegwuonu said after a workout last week at the NovaCare Complex. "We've been unfairly prosecuted for three years, and it's really unfortunate that they decided to take this to court because no one but [the prosecutor] wanted to take it to court. It's unfortunate that we got ourselves in this situation."
Ikegwuonu is confident that he will be acquitted of the charges mainly because that was the result of his brother's case in April.
"My brother's case went extremely well, and my case is the same thing," Ikegwuonu said. "[Bill] went to court, and the jury came back in like 20 minutes - not guilty. I guess they were going to come back sooner, but the judge said, 'You have to take a little bit of time and think about it.' It's really ridiculous and a joke that they're taking it to court."
According to the Daily Chronicle, a DeKalb County newspaper, Safyian Baba testified at Bill Ikegwuonu's trial that the incident involving the twin brothers was a "misunderstanding." Baba, the renter of the home that allegedly was burglarized, also testified that he tried to drop the charges shortly after the incident. Baba told the court he had since become friends with Bill Ikegwuonu, who played football at Northern Illinois University.
Prosecutors in Bill Ikegwuonu's case said that the two brothers broke into the home and were discovered by Baba at 2 a.m., possibly holding an Xbox system that belonged in the home.
Julie Trevarthen, the DeKalb County prosecutor who tried Bill Ikegwuonu's case and will also prosecute Jack Ikegwuonu's case, said there are some disparities between the two.
"There are differences in the evidence," Trevarthen said by phone. "There are differences in the statements made by Jack versus his brother. I can tell you Jack's statements are much stronger in terms of being beneficial to the state."
Trevarthen said the criminal-trespass charge is a Class 1 felony with a mandatory jail sentence of four to 15 years should Ikegwuonu be convicted. She said there is no chance for probation.
In recent weeks, Ikegwuonu has been far more concerned with football than his day in court. After missing all of his rookie season because of a freak injury to his right knee that required surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Ikegwuonu is trying to prove he belongs in the NFL.
It's clear that the Eagles want him to prove it, too. Both coach Andy Reid and general manager Tom Heckert were lukewarm in their appraisals of Ikegwuonu earlier this off-season, and his name is still not on the team's unofficial depth chart posted on the Eagles' Web site.
"I've been playing football a long time, and I never really had a serious injury before, so it's good to be back and especially at this level," Ikegwuonu said. "I've been here for a year now, and I feel like this is my opportunity to give back to the program and showcase what I can do."
Last week, Eagles Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel referred to Ikegwuonu as "my little protege" after the former University of Wisconsin star knocked down a pass in a seven-on-seven drill.
Ikegwuonu said secondary coach Otis Smith has also seen signs of promise.
"Coach whispered in my ear that he thinks I can be a good player," Ikegwuonu said. "I think that's why he gets on me. I have to prove myself to them."
After the Eagles concluded their final off-season camp, Reid offered some praise for his young cornerback.
"I think his leg showed improvement every week here," Reid said. "If you look back on that mandatory minicamp, he was struggling to make it through a practice, and now he's out there getting his hands on the ball. He got his hands on two or three balls today, and that, to me, is a positive sign. You should have an even better player once you get to training camp, if all goes well."