MORE AND MORE, it looks as if spring and much of summer, at least, will be sacrificed to the NFL lockout. The planning-for-business-as-usual stance the Eagles were taking a few months ago is giving way to a realization that this season will be very different, as work is missed that will never be made up.
"The further it goes in [to preparation], the worse the product," Eagles coach Andy Reid said last night on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live." Reid was appearing during a NovaCare practice for the 37th annual Philadelphia Eagles City All-Star Football Classic, scheduled for Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, with Birds defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and special-teams coordinator Bobby April serving as honorary coaches.
"No matter how you cut this thing, you need time, in practice," Reid said. "You're bringing in guys who are working hard in the offseason on their own, but that's not like working hard in training camp [in concert with other players].
"It's a great challenge for coaches, because we take a lot of pride in being good teachers. I've asked the coaches to go back and make sure they refine everything . . . [Instruction has] got to come out, and it's got to be direct, specific, the players have to be able to visualize it."
Castillo, ever optimistic, minimized the effect of the missed time.
"Football is football," Castillo said, when asked how likely it is that rookies drafted last month will be able to contribute substantially this season. "You're responsible for a gap, whether it's at Oregon, whether it's at Connecticut, whether it's at Ohio State or whether it's Philadelphia. Football is really not a complex game. You're a MIKE linebacker, you've got the A gap or you've got the B gap."
Maybe it will help that part of Castillo's mission in replacing Sean McDermott has been to simplify the defense.
But as April pointed out, minicamps being missed, the training camp that is threatened - the NFL has never acted as if these were anything other than essential.
"We don't do those minicamps, those OTAs, [organized team activities] and all those sessions just for the heck of it," April said. "There's a reason why we have those things in . . . We try to get the utmost out of it. There's a reason why we have that length of time in training camp, because that's really what it takes to put a product on the field, and even then it's always a work in progress . . . It does take a lot of time to put a good product out there, and if we're limited on time, I'm not going to say it's not going to be a good product, but again, repeating, we don't do those minicamps and OTAs for nothing."
One thing Reid has his coaches doing instead of running minicamp right now is setting up contingencies - how they will approach it if the lockout ends next week, what they will do if it's late July, here's the plan if it's the end of August, and they are given a few weeks to pull everything together.
"That would be a very tough scenario . . . If that happens, at the end of August, the only saving grace is that everybody is going to be under the same procedure. Nobody's going to get a head start," said April, who noted that, technically, the Eagles have neither a kicker nor a punter under contract right now, despite having drafted Nebraska's Alex Henery in the fourth round. "Coach Reid, he has about five different ways this is going to turn out. He doesn't know, nobody knows. So we have to organize five different ways [scenarios that must be dealt with] . . . We have to be ready to have minicamp next weekend" if somehow there is a settlement.
Earlier, Reid told reporters the uncertainty of when the work stoppage might end has led him to counsel coaches to stay close to home in case the team has to swing into action.
"The coaches know that vacation this year is a little bit different. You don't want to be taking camel rides through the Sahara desert. You don't want to do those this year - kind of save those for another year and stay close, within striking distance, and you can come in here if we're given time to knock out a 3-day minicamp, all we have to do is put a date on it, we've already gotten it written up, drawn up, the books are ready, we're ready to go," Reid said.
There's been much hopeful speculation around Eagles Nation concerning the possible trade of quarterback Kevin Kolb. Basically, fans hope the Birds have a deal in place and need only to make the announcement, and not start the bidding process, when the lockout ends.
Andy Reid said the way he understood the prelockout offseason rules, "you weren't supposed to finalize any deals and even get into that type of talk about deals." Contrary to what some fans think, the brief thaw in the lockout during the draft did not loosen restrictions on trade discussion.
Reid said a number of teams indicated interest back before the league shut down, but "you don't know how serious they are, because in the National Football League, nothing happens until it has to happen."
He said the early talks were very general, and there has been no opportunity to revisit them.
"You have an idea of who's interested in quarterbacks . . . but you couldn't do any deals then. You never got to that point where it's real serious; it was too far in advance," Reid said. "And you can't talk at all now. So, if he ends up going somewhere, more power to him, he deserves that opportunity. But I also like him here."
One of the interesting situations, whenever the Eagles reconvene, is that new offensive line coach Howard Mudd will bring different techniques and emphasis to that group - with the former OL coach, Juan Castillo, standing right across the line of scrimmage, coaching the defense.
Castillo said last night that won't be a problem for him, watching someone tell his former players they need to forget some of what he taught them.
"I got one goal, and that's to win a Super Bowl," Castillo said. "My job is to make sure that the defense is of championship caliber and helps us win games. That's what all my mind and all my time is spent on now. I love my [OL] guys and I'm going to talk to 'em," but Mudd is in charge there now. *
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