THERE WERE no definite, absolute answers to the key-injury questions dispensed yesterday at NovaCare. But based on everything seen and heard at Eagles practice, it would seem that DeSean Jackson definitely is playing tomorrow, Asante Samuel probably is playing, and Winston Justice might not be playing, even though he says he is.
All three were listed as partial practice participants and declared "questionable." Right tackle Justice seemed to practice much less than the other two, and his backup, King Dunlap, asserted that he will start "as far as I know - I took all the reps this week."
Eagles coach Andy Reid said that in each case, he wanted to see how the player feels today, after yesterday's work.
Justice has grown exasperated with reporters questioning whether he will play, but he didn't play last week after saying he thought he would. This week, after every practice, he has said he feels much better than a week ago and expects to go against the Giants. Justice did that again yesterday. But he also spoke of not being 100 percent with the knee injury he suffered against Houston.
"My expectation is to play," Justice said yesterday. "If I was to play right now, I wouldn't be 100 percent, to be honest."
Jackson said the foot injury he suffered Sunday night against the Cowboys isn't all that serious. He repeated what he'd said Thursday about not letting his troops go to war without him.
"I still got 2 days to get ready, so I should be fine," said the Eagles wideout, who was named NFC offensive player of the week for his four-catch, 210-yard performance at Dallas, despite the injury. "Practice today, I did some things. I feel pretty good . . . I did a lot more today than yesterday."
Jackson said the main hindrance is lateral movement.
"Straight ahead is not too bad. As long as I've got my long speed, I should be all right," he said. He said treatment is aimed at "getting the inflammation out."
Samuel said he felt "pretty good," but is taking it day by day. He said he is "making strides" after missing 3 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament. The cornerback was injured in the last meeting with the Giants, in which he intercepted Eli Manning twice.
"Every day feels better," Samuel said. "Like anybody else in the NFL, nobody's 100 percent. You just gotta deal with what problems you've got and overcome 'em. Not being out there, not being able to perform and practice and play with the confidence you normally will is frustrating, but I'm making good strides."
Colt Anderson, the safety and special-teams gunner the Eagles signed off the Minnesota practice squad on Nov. 10, has been a huge addition to the coverage teams. Special-teams coordinator Bobby April was asked this week what makes Anderson so, well, special.
"Well, I think he really knows how to play football," April said. "He understands things when he goes in there. You can just see it. It looks like he's been groomed forever on all the basics and all the skills. If most of the field is to his right, he's got his left foot up and he's got his right foot back. If he has to break to where he has to use his speed, he's already partially opened that way . . . Most guys don't have that. We try to teach so much of it in the offseason, but it's tough . . .
"He was probably well coached in college . . . In my mind, he's got the greatest power any player could have. He's grateful. He's got the power of gratitude. I think that's true for any person, not just player. He takes advantage of every single thing that goes on. I think that sets him apart, really, apart from his skill."
Anderson agrees he was well-coached by former Eagles safety Tim Hauck, who coached the secondary at Montana.
"I've been around football my whole life," Anderson said. "I have two older brothers that I played with. I was always the smaller and younger guy out there. I had to find a way to fit in and make plays when they were playing. I guess you could say I just got a feel through the years of when I can make a play or what I need to do here or there."
Anderson spent a year-and-a-half on the Vikings' practice squad. As April noted, he is indeed grateful to be playing.
"There's times when you start questioning your abilities: Is this what you want to do for your living? I'm just grateful and thankful to be where I'm at. I'm not 100 percent satisfied yet. There's still a long ways to go," he said. "It's kind of the story of my life, catching a break or getting an opportunity. I was a walk-on in college. Tim Hauck saw what I could do. He gave me a chance and I didn't look back. It's kind of the same thing here; hopefully, I won't look back and will keep going full steam ahead."
Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell spoke yesterday about his regard for LeSean McCoy, who leads NFL running backs with 70 receptions and is fourth in rushing average, 5.3 yards per carry (184 carries for 972 yards).
"In my opinion, he is the guy. The receivers, they get all the accolades, but if you look at the games and who damages you in the fourth quarter, against us, it was McCoy; against Dallas, it was McCoy," Fewell said. "He's the guy who inflicts the pain on you, and the other guys get the glory, so he's a tough cat to handle now. First and second down, he's getting that run, be it run or be it screens or what have you, but he's just pounding away at you, and then in the fourth quarter, he gets stronger."
Michael Vick's reaction upon hearing Donovan McNabb has been benched by the Redskins: "Really? . . . It's shocking to hear that. Oh, boy. I don't know what the situation or the circumstances - I don't know what's going on, so I really can't comment, other than to wish him well" . . . Does this qualify as regifting? When running back Joique Bell rejoined the practice squad, his former No. 24 had been given out to safety Brandon Hughes. So Bell got No. 26 - which was Mike Bell's jersey, but will work just fine for Joique . . . Andy Reid was asked whether defensive end Derrick Burgess will play tomorrow. Reid said Burgess, who hasn't played since the preseason, is in good shape. "He felt pretty good today, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there," Reid said . . . Middle linebacker Jamar Chaney said a full week of practice was key for him in preparing for his first career start. "The hardest challenge was last week, just getting thrown in there without the reps" when Stew Bradley dislocated his right elbow, Chaney said. Giants running back Brandon Jacobs goes 6-4, 264 to Chaney's 6-foot, 242. When a reporter noted that Jacobs is a big dude, Chaney said: "What group of linebackers did he play that he's not a big dude to? How many 4-3 linebackers are bigger than him?" Well, Bradley is 6-4, 258. Chaney said Bradley and Chicago's Brian Urlacher might be the only names on that list. *
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