The calls for the Eagles to draft a wide receiver never really go away. Since taking Donovan McNabb No. 1 in 1999, the Birds have yet to complement him with a great receiver, with the single exception of 2004.

And you may recall how that season went.

But the Eagles seem to shy away from that sort of commitment these days. Having been burned by Freddie Mitchell and Terrell Owens, they seem ultra-reluctant to revisit the past.

Maybe, says one of the most respected NFL writers in the country, their caution is well-placed.

Ira Miller, writing on NFL.com, said that, other than quarterback, wide receiver may be the most difficult position to project.

Miller pointed out that NFL teams have drafted 43 wide receivers in the first round over the last 10 years.

Yet only two had 1,000-yard seasons as rookies - the same number of 1,000-yard seasons produced by receivers drafted after the first round.

According to NFL.com, the only first-round wideouts to go over 1,000 yards receiving in the last 10 years were Minnesota's Randy Moss in 1998 and Tampa Bay's Michael Clayton in 2004. Moss has remained an elite receiver, but Clayton, who gained 1,193 yards as a rookie, has totaled just 1,029 yards in the last three seasons.

The other two 1,000-yard rookie receivers were Arizona's Anquan Boldin, a second-round choice in 2003; and New Orleans' Marques Colston, a seventh-rounder in 2006.

There were six wide receivers drafted in the first round last April. One (Robert Meachem of New Orleans) never got into a game and another (Buster Davis, San Diego) started just one game.

The leader among the six first-rounders was Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, who started 15 games and caught 70 passes for 995 yards. Combined, the six first-round picks averaged fewer than 500 yards receiving.

Why the lack of success?

According to Miller, who covered the San Francisco 49ers for more than 25 years, the reason is the complexity of modern pro defenses. Man-to-man coverages, bump-and-runs, multiple defenses, and speed - far more of it than receivers are used to seeing in college - make pro football a very different game, Miller writes.

Young wide receivers, especially those blessed with great speed, often think they can outrun the defense.

"You're not going to out-athlete pro cornerbacks," an AFC personnel man told NFL.com. "If you think you're just going to out-speed guys in this league, you won't be around very long."

An oldie but goodie. David Pearson, Darlington Raceway's career victory leader with 10, turned several laps on the track's newly paved surface yesterday alongside NASCAR star Carl Edwards.

Pearson drove a restored version of the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Purolator Mercury from 1971.

Pearson led the way after the green flag was dropped on the 1.366-mile oval. After several laps, the checkered flag came out with the 73-year-old Pearson edging Edwards.

"It was great to get my 11th win here," Pearson said, joking. "I have been looking forward to this day for a long time."

Pearson finished his Hall of Fame career with 105 NASCAR victories, second behind Richard Petty.

Sympathy flows like tears. Since Brandt Snedeker let his emotions flow after losing his chance at the Masters last week, he has gained a full-blown following of well-wishers all with the same, simple message: Dry your eyes and hold your head up.

Snedeker was in contention Sunday at Augusta National, yet saw that slip away with a 5-over 77 that left him third behind champion Trevor Immelman and Tiger Woods.

After he walked off the course, Snedeker felt overcome by a week of drama and emotion. He couldn't stop the tears - an image that touched the hearts of most who watched.

Snedeker has gotten countless calls and messages of support from strangers and friends, including country music star Vince Gill, who counseled, "It's OK. Life goes on."

"With me crying on national television, I guess people realize how much I care," Snedeker said with his usual smile yesterday while practicing for the Verizon Heritage on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Snedeker said several people came by at dinner Monday night, offering support. The galleries at Harbour Town also have boosted Snedeker's morale.

In yesterday's pro-am, fans cheered Snedeker's shots and offered their best wishes as he walked by.

"I'm sitting there smiling, saying, 'I just finished third in the Masters. Nobody died. We're fine,' " said Snedeker, who confessed to "crying like a girl whose prom date didn't show up."