Lehigh University would like to know by around June 1 whether the Eagles are coming for training camp this year, dean of athletics Joe Sterrett said this week. Eagles president Joe Banner said yesterday that right now, the team is preparing for a normal spring and summer, including training camp, as unlikely as that might seem with the NFL in lockout limbo.

"Obviously, they would need to know, and at some point, we'd need to know," Banner said. "Obviously, we'll delay that as long as we possibly can, and hopefully, it takes care of itself" with a settlement of the labor impasse. "If we got so late, and then a resolution came, that we couldn't do it at Lehigh, we'd just do it at NovaCare," though Banner noted the agreement the Eagles made with the city and the surrounding neighborhood when the practice facility was built would preclude having the public attend. "Flight Night" type activities at the Linc would be possible, but "the priority would be getting ready for the season," Banner said.

Any plans are hard to make with certainty; right now, just about the only thing for sure is that the entry draft will take place, April 28-30, with the Birds selecting 23rd overall. But the minicamp that's usually held the weekend after the draft? The Eagles are planning as if they're going to have it, Banner said.

Banner appeared yesterday at the Wharton Sports Innovation Conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Banner was part of a panel that discussed "balancing on-field success with in-the-books success."

U.S. Judge Susan Richard Nelson could grant an injunction sometime in the next few weeks that would lift the lockout, and presumably, suddenly open the free-agent and trade markets. Banner said the Eagles are ready for whatever happens, though he said they have been given no direction from the NFL about what rules would be in place.

"You're almost running, 'If it goes like this, you do it this way; this, you do it this way.' There's no shortage of work for anybody," Banner said. "Whatever ends up, we'll deal with it."

That's pretty much the stance Lehigh is forced to take as well, Sterrett said.

"We'll just sit and wait and see what happens out of their [collective bargaining] discussions, and then we'll adapt if we can," Sterrett said.

The Eagles' training camp home since 1995 doesn't make a lot of money off the 2 to 3 weeks the Birds are in Bethlehem every late July and early August; though "nothing's insignificant in this day and age," Sterrett said if the Eagles don't come this year it "won't be a body blow" to Lehigh.

The money might be a bigger deal to the 50 or so senior citizens and students hired for camp, and to area restaurants and hotels, Sterrett said.

"It's kind of on the back burner right now" from Lehigh's perspective, Sterrett said, "but I think it'll move to the front burner postdraft," which is probably the case for fans and many players, as well.

Back on board

The Eagles' message boards, in all their fabled glory, should be back by Monday, team Web czar Dave Spadaro said yesterday.

Spadaro has spent the week dealing with angry users of his site, which late last week converted to an NFL-mandated universal platform. That platform included a message board format that was much more rudimentary than what the team had provided previously. Even worse, longtime users found they couldn't get in with their old usernames, couldn't use their avatars, and so on.

"They hated it," Spadaro said. Spadaro said he and his helpers spent some time trying to answer the question, "Can we salvage these boards?" Their answer, he said, turned out to be "No." So, he said, the Eagles have decided "to return to the boards as we had them prior" to the switch.

The rest of the site will remain on the NFL-mandated platform, Spadaro said.

"We're the most complex site the league has taken on to date" in its quest to standardize websites, Spadaro said. "The boards the NFL provides aren't robust enough for our fans," up to 5,000 a day of whom use the message boards, which count more than 165,000 registered users, Spadaro said.

Spadaro said the league has no problem with the Eagles using their old board format, that "the boards are something we pay for additionally." The team will save money on the rest of the redesign, using league servers and so forth. *

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