Marlin Jackson was smiling yesterday, a vivid contrast from the previous time reporters covering the Eagles had seen him, June 10 at the NovaCare indoor practice facility.

That day, Jackson sat down on the fake grass, threw off his gloves and loudly lamented his fate, as head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder manipulated the starting free safety's right leg. Jackson had suffered an Achilles' tendon tear that ended his season before he could even report to training camp.

It was a stunning blow to a player whose 2008 and 2009 seasons, with the Indianapolis Colts, were cut short by anterior cruciate ligament injuries, one to each leg. Obviously, if Jackson's career wasn't already in jeopardy, it certainly was that day, as he rode the cart off the field for the final time in 2010.

"I needed to get that out, so I could move on past that and get back to continue to work - when you work on something for so long and so hard, then you can have it taken away like that, it's going to be an emotional thing," Jackson said yesterday. "I don't think it's healthy to try and hold that in. There's no reason to. You've got to let it out and let it go, so you can move on."

He has done so. Jackson, sporting a scar down the back of his right heel, reports for work every day at NovaCare, but not to do the same work his teammates are doing as they prepare to open the season.

"Get in the whirlpool and get warmed up, then get in the pool and run. I jog for about 20 minutes off and on and do some strengthening for my calf. Right now, the main thing I'm doing is just trying to strengthen my calf . . . I have all my motion back in my foot and my ankle, and the tendon moves well. I just have to get it stronger right now," Jackson said.

Jackson, a starting corner for the Colts, had been moved to safety by the Birds, something coaches thought might be easier as he returned from the ACL tears. Now, second-round rookie Nate Allen is impressing coaches as the starting free safety. It's unclear how Jackson might fit into the picture next season for the Birds, assuming there is a next season and labor strife doesn't intrude.

"I'm just going to keep on grinding. I know there'll be days when it'll be tough, but I'll get through those days," Jackson said.

April sunny

Special-teams coordinator Bobby April said he thinks he'll have kicker David Akers for Friday's preseason game at Kansas City, even though Akers didn't practice yesterday or Monday with a heel problem.

April was asked about the adventures the Birds have had trying to cover kickoffs this preseason. This is the sort of thing fans hoped would be less prevalent with a maestro such as April running the teams.

"Well, there have been a lot of things that have kept us from timing that thing up. Some of the kicks have caused us to be a little out of kilter," April said, possibly referring to the line drives authored by since-cut Ken Parrish in the preseason opener. "I think, in the whole scheme of things, [we] probably just needed to invest more time - that's one of those areas that's a high degree of difficulty. Going through training camp, especially this offseason because I'm new, although the system is really close to what [the Eagles did previously], I tried to cover a lot of different things, and that one area is a high degree of difficulty, and it needs more time to be cultivated. I probably didn't invest as much time in it, so we're maybe a little bit behind on that." *