What if Danny Watkins hadn't held out of training camp for those 5 days? What if he had accepted the Eagles' post-lockout contract offer and reported to Lehigh on time with the rest of the team?
Would it have mattered? Would he be the team's starting right guard right now rather than waiver-wire pickup Kyle DeVan? Or would the first-round pick still be getting ready to spend his second straight week on the game-day inactive list?
"He missed some crucial time, in particular our install period," head coach Andy Reid said earlier this week. "There's a point where you go through camp where you're just barreling plays at these guys, and then there's a point where you pull back. Well, the first week or 2 are very, very important weeks and days, and each one is crucial that you get that installed and you get it down pat and you have the opportunity to practice it."
Those early days of training camp were particularly crucial to rookies this summer because the 4 1/2-month lockout robbed them of the valuable learning time they usually get in the post-draft camps and OTAs. Even rookies who did arrive at camp on time, like second-round safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, were overwhelmed by the volume of what they had to learn and the short amount of time they had to learn it.
Jarrett, who both Reid and general manager Howie Roseman had felt could be an immediate impact player when they drafted him, also was inactive last week. So was third-round pick Curtis Marsh, who also reported on time.
Watkins can't say for sure that he'd be starting right now if he hadn't missed that first week of install. But he acknowledges that it didn't help.
"It was the bread and butter that I was missing," he said. "It was critical. I needed to be there. It's disappointing. I'm still playing catch up now."
Watkins' holdout, like that of others taken in the bottom third of the first round, had to do with the number of guaranteed years in his contract. The new collective bargaining agreement mandated 4-year contracts for first-round picks. Watkins' agent, former Eagles offensive lineman Joe Panos, wanted all 4 years guaranteed. The Eagles, like most of the teams drafting in the bottom third of the first round, were only willing to guarantee 3 of the 4 years.
"It's tough," Panos said. "You've got to separate the business part from the football part. You're always thinking long-term. What's best for the kid, what's best for the player, what's best for my client. We weren't being unreasonable. It's an unfortunate part of the business.
"Heck, I never wanted to hold out when I played. Do you think I wanted to hold Danny out? But sometimes you've got to do what's best, what's right for them. Danny wasn't the only guy who missed any time."
No, he wasn't. Twenty-one of the 32 first-round picks were late reporting, including six of the seven offensive linemen taken in the first round. Three of those six - Mike Pouncey (taken 15th by the Dolphins), Nate Solder (17th by Patriots) and Anthony Castonzo (22nd by Colts) signed after Watkins. Yet all three were Week 1 starters for their teams.
A big difference between them and Watkins, though, is they've been playing the game a lot longer and were quicker studies. He's only been playing football 4 years. The holdout, coupled with the lockout, turned out to be just too much for him to overcome.
"In past years, everything wasn't as condensed," Watkins said. "You had a chance to learn a lot of what you needed to know in the spring at the camps and OTAs. It's just been a set of bad circumstances, I guess."
Panos said the lockout ended up being a much bigger factor in why Watkins isn't ready to play than his 5-day holdout.
"He missed 5 days, and 4 of those days were days that mattered," he said. "But you want to compare 5 days to 4 months of actual install and technique work [that he missed]?
"Danny did what he could. We did what we could with him as far as Xs and Os stuff [during the lockout]. But until you get on the field and get accustomed to their style of coaching, it just doesn't help.
"If this lockout doesn't happen, Danny's not in this situation. Period. Paragraph."
THIS & THAT:
-- The three Week 1 kickoff returns for touchdowns by the Packers' Randall Cobb, the 49ers' Ted Ginn and the Vikings' Percy Harvin kind of overshadowed the fact that a whopping 48.8 percent of kickoffs last week weren't returned at all.
Seventy-nine of 162 Week 1 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Eagles special-teams coach Bobby April, who has estimated, with the help of the team's statistical analysis coordinator, Mike Frazier, that the touchback total probably will be around 40 percent this year with kickoffs being moved to the 35-yard line, wasn't surprised by the high number of season-opening touchbacks.
"As the year goes, that number's going to drop," he said. "It may fluctuate up to 54 [percent] this week. But it's going to be around 50 the first 5, 6 weeks of the season. But after that, I think it'll go down."
April was a coach in the league in the early 1990s before kickoffs were moved back from the 35 to 30 in 1993. The touchback percentage wasn't this high back then because kickers didn't have the leg strength they have today.
"The kickers weren't as strong," he said. "The greatest of the greats, Jim Bakken and all those guys, go look at their stats. They're not even close to the way guys kick now. In the last 17, 18 years, kickers have gotten a lot stronger."
-- The Colts don't plan to put Peyton Manning on injured reserve as long as there remains a chance he might return at some point this season.
"What I've said to Peyton and what we've said publicly is that we will leave him on the active roster as long as the doctors tell us there's a chance for him to come back," Bill Polian, the team's vice-chairman, said in an interview on the team's website. Polian said Manning would not be allowed back on the field until doctors feel he's made a complete recovery from neck surgery. He added that the team's fortunes on the field would have no bearing on any decision about his return.
"His long-term health is what the most important thing is here," he said. "We have constantly said to him, 'If you're not ready to go, you're not going to be allowed out there.' "
-- They're blowing taps in Minnesota for Donovan McNabb after his dreadful 7-for-15, 39-yard performance last week in a 24-17 loss to the Chargers. But the 34-year-old ex-Eagle quarterback remains confident that he will find his groove.
"I passed for over 3,000 yards [in 2010]," he said. "That's pretty decent. When this next game ends, they will probably be saying, 'This is the guy we expected to see.' I'm a pro. It doesn't matter if I pass for 400 or 500 yards and we lose, it's still the same feeling [as Sunday]. That's the way you have to approach it as a quarterback in this league. You have to have short-term memory. You have to be patient, and you have to understand it's all about winning in this league."
A breakdown of the Eagles' 237 rushing yards against the Rams:
-- 117 came in the fourth quarter, on just 10 carries, including 95 on four carries by LeSean McCoy.
-- The Eagles averaged 6.5 yards per carry on first down (19-123), 8.8 on second down (10-88) and 13.0 on third down (2-26).
-- Fifty-nine of Vick's 98 rushing yards and 57 of McCoy's 122 yards came on first down.
-- By formation, McCoy had 69 yards on six carries out of a 2-WR, 1-RB, 2-TE set; 32 on five carries out of a 3-WR, 1-RB, 1-TE set; 22 yards on three carries out of a 2-WR, 2-RB, 1-TE set; and minus-1 yard on one carry out of a 1-WR, 2-RB, 2-TE set.
FROM THE LIP:
"Y'all might think I'm crazy, but I'm telling you right now, he's going to have an all-time year. He'll probably shatter every record."
- Cowboys LB Keith Brooking on QB Tony Romo, who had a fourth-quarter fumble and interception in the Cowboys' 27-24 loss to the Jets
"We as a team and as an organization, we know that the Washington Redskins aren't better than us. We know that hands down. If we played them 100 times, they might win five."
- Giants S Antrel Rolle after his team's 28-14 loss to the Redskins
"The Pittsburgh Steelers, I have three things [to say about them]: old, slow and it's over. Hines Ward, Mercedes Sapp [his 13-year-old daughter] can cover Hines Ward right now."
- Warren Sapp on Showtime's "Inside the NFL"
"I think Philadelphia has a lot of things to fix. There's work to be done in Philadelphia. I'm not ready to anoint them yet."
- former coach and current ESPN studio analyst Bill Parcells
BY THE NUMBERS:
-- In the last 2 years, no team that started off 0-2 qualified for the playoffs. Fourteen teams started 1-1 and earned playoff berths.
-- Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 98 yards in the Vikings' loss to the Chargers last week, has rushed for 1,650 yards in 15 career games in September. That's 110.0 yards per game. The only player in NFL history who averaged more in September was Jim Brown (110.8)
-- With his 98 rushing yards against the Rams, Michael Vick now has rushed for 4,728 in his career. The only quarterback in NFL history with more rushing yards than Vick is ex-Eagle Randall Cunningham (4,928).
-- The 49ers' Ted Ginn became the first player in history to return both a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the first week of the season. He is only the 12th to do it in any week.
-- Fourteen quarterbacks threw for 300 or more yards last week. That's the most in a single week in NFL history. So, too, was the total of 7,842 passing yards.
-- The eight punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns in Week 1 were the most in league history.
-- To NFL Films for its latest masterpiece, "Bill Belichick: A Football Life," which premiered last night on NFL Network. Films put a microphone on the Patriots coach during the 2009 season. He gave them complete access to everything - team meetings, conversations with team owner Bob Kraft, even personal conversations and intimate moments. The result is one of the most fascinating productions Films has ever done. And that's saying something.