Eagles Training Camp Set to Begin

Chip Kelly will begin his first training camp with the Eagles today.

Chip Kelly will begin his first training camp with the Eagles today.

Today marks the official start of the first Eagles training camp under new head coach Chip Kelly. The first year NFL coach has decided to move the camp from Lehigh University to the Novacare Complex here in Philadelphia.

Select practices will be open to the public and held at Lincoln Financial Field.

That will not be the only change from the Andy Reid era. There will be a lot of new sights and sounds to look out for this year. There will be new drills, tempo, players, schemes, strategies and positional battles that will make this training camp quite unique.

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Time to Get Over the Cary Williams’ Remarks

Eagles CB Cary Williams has taken some heat for missing OTA's.

Eagles CB Cary Williams has taken some heat for missing OTA’s.

New Eagles’ cornerback Cary Williams has made some interesting remarks regarding his absences from the Eagles’ OTA sessions. Williams missed at least three OTA’s which did not sit well with some pundits and fans throughout the city. Under the most recent collective bargaining agreement, OTA’s are voluntary team activities. Players are not obligated to attend and teams can not reprimand players for not showing up. Williams took advantage of that fact but his reasons for doing so do not seem to be satisfying critics.

It’s time to just get over it.

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Is Karma Real? Ask Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens would seem like a logical fit for the Niners but there is a slim chance he will end up there.

Have you ever looked for solid, undeniable proof of the existence of the phenomenon that is karma? Tons of people have and it is the typical excuse we use to justify why certain things happen to certain people in certain situations.

Karma is basically defined as the good or bad incarnations that result from the behaviors of an individual. If you do good, good will happen to you and if you do bad, bad will happen to you. Pretty simple right?

There is no scientific proof that karma exists, but if you are looking for some very strong support of it, look no further than Terrell Owens. The former NFL wide receiver has built a reputation of being a disruption in the locker room and now he is struggling to find a locker room that will take him in. The offers are there, they just aren’t from NFL teams.

The latest reports involving Owens report that the former All-Pro wideout is on the verge of returning to the gridiron with an Indoor League team, the  Allen Wranglers. The simple fact that an NFL team will not come anywhere near Owens is the greatest example of karma I’ve ever seen.

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The Phenomenon That is Tebow

Tim Tebow has led the Broncos to first place in their division.

Either you hate him or you love him. Either you think he is merely an untalented fad of a quarterback who will eventually be figured out by NFL defenses or you think he is making up for what he lacks in quarterbacking skill with pure leadership and will. Either way you know he is an unconventional NFL signal caller to say the least and he is currently one of the most intriguing enigmas in all of sports today.

If you have paid a visit to ESPN or NFL Network during this football season, you have probably stumbled upon quite a bit of in-depth Tebow analysis. The overwhelming analysis from almost every expert is that Tebow will not be able to continue winning games and it is merely a matter of time before the league figures out how to stop him and the Broncos option offense. The question is…WHEN?

Tebow has started every game for the Broncos since Week 7 and has a 7-1 record. Why is it taking so long to figure him out? The Broncos are now 8-5, first place in their division. Sometimes its hard to hear pundits claim that Tebow will never win in the NFL since all he’s done is WIN, WIN, WIN.

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Why The Lockout Could Ruin the NBA

 

NBA Commissioner David Stern wants progress made soon.

With the summer set to come to a close, one recurring theme throughout these past few months has been that of labor unrest. A number of union battles have come about in recent months, none more talked about then the two centered on two of the countries professional sports leagues, the NFL and the NBA. The NFL Lockout has come and gone with both sides conceding some things just in time to salvage an abbreviated offseason and preseason without losing any regular season games. The NFL seemed to have left some people’s minds for a little while, but once the lockout was lifted, it quickly returned to the minds of its fans.

The NBA however, may not be so lucky. The lockout for them is slightly different. The NFL was coming off of one of its most profitable seasons ever and the fan base at this point seems very energized. The fact that teams in the NFL do not easily reach dynasty status seems to attract more fans to more teams because you always feel like your team could be on the cusp of winning. The NBA’s season was quite different. The majority of franchises lost money last season. NBA players do not seem to carry the same sympathy card with the fans either. They are on average already the highest paid athletes in professional sports so it is hard to figure out what they want. Last season did not center on fans striving and pulling for their franchise. It mainly focused on the fan base’s hatred for one particular franchise. There is no sense in the NBA that a team in the basement of the league can quickly turn it around in a season or two and compete. This seems to be off-putting to fans and is part of the reason why many people who I encounter prefer college basketball. This lockout could ruin the NBA.

Reports are in that this lockout could cost the league all of next season and perhaps parts of the next. The players do not seem to have the same mindset of their NFL counterparts. Football players banded together and held small self-imposed practices and workouts to prepare during the lockout while NBA players are heading overseas. I do not want to paint the picture that every NFL player showed up to such practices nor do I insist that all of the NBA players are going to go overseas. However, the fact that some already have, and that some seem to be on their way shows that they may not have too much faith in the negotiating prowess of their union or their league. It is true that NFL players do not necessarily have the luxury of going to play in leagues abroad unless you want to count signing with a CFL or Arena League team, but the fact that you saw so many small player organized practices showed that they had football on their minds and wanted to be in a position to put the best product on the field for the fans. NBA players going overseas may be sending a message to the owners, but it is also sending a message to the fans that they do not necessarily have a connection to the NBA or to their particular team, but to simply getting paid.

The NBA does not need another blemish and right now that is what this lockout is. They ended last season on a high note. The team that everyone loved to hate made it far enough to keep ratings up, but lost which kept fans hopes up that even with 3 superstars on one team, my team may still have a chance. That high note quickly plunged in light of this lockout and an abbreviate season most likely will not be the remedy needed to get fans back on board with what the NBA is selling. The league is going to have to be much different in the future to entice fans to come back. A better brand of basketball and more competition are going to be essential to putting fans in the seats when the league resumes business because the bottom line is this: The NBA fan base is nowhere near as strong or as loyal as the NFL’s and there is no guarantee that the league will even be able to retain what they had last season when they were losing major dollars.

Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher are tasked with leading the players to a new CBA.

The two sides are supposed to meet this week for just the second time since the lockout went into effect in early July. Commissioner David Stern is adamant that he wants progress to be made as a result of these meetings. Billy Hunter, the Players Union executive director and Derek Fisher, L.A. Laker Guard and Union President are expected to meet with Stern but the two sides are quite far apart and there does not seem to be any strong indications that these meetings will significantly bridge the gap. Owners want salary cuts and a new more restrictive salary cap system. Players basically want their salaries to remain untouched. Buckle up everyone, because from the looks of this, it is going to be a long, bumpy road before we get back to having NBA basketball. The question is, is anyone going to miss it that much. The NBA better hope so.

Do Additions to Eagles Really Make Them The Dream Team?

Vince Young dubbed the Eagles the Dream Team and the media has run with the idea.

In this frenzy that has been free agency for the NFL this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have undoubtedly been the most active team in the league and their acquisitions have some picking them as the favorites in the NFC. The Birds have made additions to both the offense and defense. Some were expected and talked about for months while others caught the world quite off guard.

The Eagles free agent frenzy got underway on July 29th when the team agreed to terms with four of the players that they’ve acquired this offseason. They team reached agreements with WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, TE Donald Lee, DE Jason Babin, and CB Nnamdi Asomugha. The big name on that list is obvious but each name could potentially play a key role for the Eagles this season. The team also agreed to a deal with Vince Young on this day although it did not become official. Young will be a solid backup and started the hype talk by referring to the team as the “Dream Team”.

Out of the four the obvious impact looked to be on the defensive side of the ball but the two offensive players acquired will play roles. Higgins is a speedy receiver who could certainly play his way into a role in the Birds high-speed offense. He will also get a chance to serve as the teams primary return man as it seems that the Birds are looking to completely phase Desean Jackson out of that role, especially if they are going to consider paying him a more adequate salary. Higgins has played 4 years with the Raiders and has season highs of 366 yards and 22 receptions. Those are not staggering numbers to say the least but he has a year of kick returning experience and 4 years of punt returning experiencing. TE Donald Lee will serve as the primary backup to Brent Celek. Lee is 30 years old and has played for the Dolphins and the Packers championship team last season. Lee will provide a solid experienced TE backup which the Eagles have not had. He will give the team the capability to run some interesting two TE sets.

The most coveted free agent, Nnamdi Asomugha will look to help an ailing Birds defense.

The upside of the other two additions, Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha is obvious. The former Eagle Jason Babin will be reuniting with his line coach from Tennessee, Jim Washburn. Washburn, in one season, turned Babin into a career rotation guy into a Pro Bowler. Babin will be given the opportunity to start opposite Trent Cole to provide the consistent pressure from the other side of the line that the Eagles desire. Asomugha is Asomugha. He was the most coveted free agent on the market and perhaps the most shocking acquisition by any team this offseason. Asomugha is arguably the leagues best corner back. His aggressive press style is something that the Eagles have not had for some time and he may get the chance to form the best corner trio in the league with Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who was acquired the day before in the Kevin Kolb trade.

The Eagles have brought back DE Jason Babin after his pro bowl season in Tennessee.

The Eagles were the buzz of TV football coverage for the night and they kept that buzz going by making another splash the next day by signing DL Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins was a key cog to the Packers high quality championship defense last season. Jenkins only played in 11 games last season but recorded 7 sacks, one of which was against Eagles QB Michael Vick. Jenkins excelled in a 3-4 defense last season and the Eagles are hopeful that he can continue that success playing DT in a 4-3 scheme.

The next day the team signed guard Evan Mathis. Mathis has been a backup for the most part in his career with three NFL franchises but he will provide depth given the fact that the penciled in starter at RG is rookie Danny Watkins who was late to camp due to contract issues. On August 2nd, the team brought in OT Ryan Harris who some are dubbing a serious candidate to protect Vick’s blind side. The team also made an interesting move signing former Pro Bowler and Miami Dolphin RB Ronnie Brown. Brown reportedly had more lucrative offers and chances to start elsewhere but he claimed that at the age of 29, all he wants to do is win and he envisions a tandem of himself and Lesean McCoy being one of the most dangerous in the league. A backfield of Vick, McCoy and Brown would provide fits for coordinators everywhere. The team wrapped up the day by signing former Patriot safety Jarrad Page to add depth to a position that boasted 2nd year players, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, as the starters. Page spent three full seasons as a starter in Kansas City before going to New England last year.

Eagles WR Desean Jackson has not yet reported to camp in search of a new contract.

So do these additions make the Eagles the Miami Heat of the NFL? That remains to be seen but it is apparent that players want to bring their talents to South Philly. Each addition makes the Eagles better and that is why many are picking them as the NFC’s best team but it still has to be proven on the field and that fact is not lost on the team. They must get Desean Jackson in camp and on track for he is a huge piece to any Super Bowl chance the team has. There are also players such as Braylon Edwards who could maybe make an impact on a team like the Eagles. Likely? Probably not, but every passing day drives Edwards and other free agents price tags down which gives the Eagles a chance. If the Eagles are the NFL’s Heat, hopefully the outcome will be different. Speaking of the Heat, anybody know if Lebron James is looking for something to do during the NBA Lockout? He could be the big WR the Eagles need to pair with Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

Are these two franchises anything alike?

New Deal for DJACK: Could a Holdout be Looming for the Eagles Top Receiver?

Desean Jackson has been clear that he wants a new deal and with the lockout over the issue is becoming apparent.

With the NFL Lockout done and over with, it is finally time to get down to the business of football which is not necessarily just the playing of the game itself, but also of course the monetary side of the game. Typically this period of the offseason is spread out over months but due to the rapid nature of this shortened off-season, everything is being consolidated into a much smaller time frame. Trades, signings, and cuts are being made rapidly as teams try to load up on players and while others look to scale back to create cap space. This frenzied time period could become a little more tricky for the Philadelphia Eagles who could possibly have a holdout on their hands. Desean Jackson, the Eagles best receiver and perhaps the most valuable piece to their offense, has been clamoring for a new deal for quite some time and there is now speculation that he could holdout from Training Camp until a new deal is agreed upon.

Today is the first day that Eagles players are scheduled to report to Lehigh. Based on some comments made by Eagles QB Michael Vick, some feel like it is very likely that Jackson will not report although Vick did not outright say that he will not.

Terrell Owens and Drew Rosenhaus orchestrated the last high profile receiver holdout dealt with by the Eagles.

Jackson’s desire for a new contract is certainly warranted. It is nothing like the last disgruntled wideout that Eagles fans remember oh so well, Terrell Owens. Owens signed a 7 year, $49 million deal with the Eagles and wanted it restructured after one season with the team. Although both receivers share a common denominator in agent Drew Rosenhaus, Jackson is in a much different boat. This season, Desean Jackson is only scheduled to make $565,000 and very few are arguing against him getting a new contract. It is very clear that he has outperformed that type of salary. The question is, what will Jackson want.

Will Desean Jackson seek to be compensated like a top-tier NFL receiver such as Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson? To put it into perspective, Andre Johnson signed a 7 year, $62.7 million deal in 2010 and is slated to make $6 million this season and $11 million in the final year of the deal. Larry Fitzgerald signed a 4 year, $40 million deal in 2008 with a no trade clause and is slated to make $7 million in this the final year of the deal. He also has a clause that guarantees him a salary of $23 million if he gets franchised for 2012. Is Desean Jackson worth those kind of dollars? It’s hard to say simply because you are comparing apples to oranges.

Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson are arguably the two best receivers in the NFL Today.

Desean Jackson will never play like those receivers. He is not a big receiver who makes an impact by catching 10 passes in a game. In fact, the yards those receivers rack up in 10 catches, Jackson is capable of compiling in one or two catches due to his ability to catch passes well above 50 yards. Jackson has also proven his worth on special teams, just ask the New York Giants. It is pretty clear that a two-time pro bowler should have a salary greater than $565,000. Will the Eagles appease Jackson? You have to imagine they will. The team clearly has cap space and if they harbor any ideas of possibly winning a Superbowl, they need their greatest stretch the field threat in tow.

Jackson was painted as a player with a big ego and some attitude problems coming out of Cal but those traits have not necessarily defined him in Philadelphia. Sure, there have been some on the field antics that have had some question his maturity, but Jackson has actually proved to be a hard worker who does not shy away in crunch time. What he lacks in size he makes up for in production and that fact should lead to Jackson receiving some fairer compensation. We will have to wait and see if he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus, think a holdout is in order.

Jackson's "Dangerous" game has been a huge part of the Eagles' success.

It’s Back: NFL Players and Owners Reach Deal on New CBA

Demaurice Smith and Roger Goodell adress the media in light of the new CBA agreement.

The NFL Lockout is now over after a dispute of over 4 months. The players finally voted today on a deal that will allow for the NFL season to start on time meaning no one will have to drastically change their Sunday plans come this fall. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was quoted as saying “This is a long time coming, and football’s back.” NFLPA Director Demaurice Smith admitted that not every side got what they wanted in the new deal, but that the deal was fair for both sides.

The owners gained the majority of the $9 billion in dispute throughout the negotiations and earned a 53% share of annual league revenues. The players gained several amendments to practice time limits and off season work. The day of two a days may be over and players hope to see a safer game that will result in fewer injuries.

The NFL has outlined the timeline for how teams are to operate going forward. Tomorrow at 10am, trading begins, teams can sign rookies and un-drafted free agents, and teams can negotiate with veteran free agents. On Thursday at 4:01pm, teams can start to cut players. On Friday at 6pm, teams can officially sign free agents to contracts. By August 4th, teams must be within the salary cap. Training Camps are set to start up by Wednesday.

The NFL  will only lose the Annual Hall Of Fame Game to the lockout but, players and owners alike are happy to know that no regular season games will be lost.

Nnamdi Asomugha will undoubtedly be one of the most coveted free agents now that the lockout is over.

The rapid nature of negotiations will certainly lead to an exciting offseason for trade and free agent rumor hounds. Free Agents like Nnamdi Asomugha, Ray Edwards, DeAngelo Williams, Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Ike Taylor and maybe even Brett Favre if speculation turns into reality, may all be prizes for the quickest acting teams. One major difference with this offseason is that teams will not be granted exclusive negotiation rights with their own free agents due to the little time available to the teams. Trades will also be a big part of the offseason as players like Kevin Kolb will certainly find new homes within the week.

All signs point to Kevin Kolb heading from the Eagles to the Cardinals to join forces with Larry Fitzgerald and to get a crack at being a number 1 QB.

So breathe easy NFL fans. Football is indeed back. It shows a good example that when you work together and come to the table and negotiate, things can  get done. Wonder if there is another institution, one that perhaps runs our everyday existence, that can learn from that statement. Anyway, enjoy the rapid player movement that will come from the lockout and pay close attention because if you blink you will certainly miss something.

 

NBA Lockout: Looks Like We’re in for the Long Haul.

Player's Union Chief Billy Hunter and President Derek Fisher address the media in front of a group of NBA team player representatives.

It has begun. Yesterday was the first day of the year’s second major professional sports lockout. This time it was in the NBA. As there finally seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the NFL, the NBA seems to be mired in a lockout that could certainly threaten next season and perhaps beyond. According to multiple reports, the players and owners alike have been expecting and bracing for this lockout for the last two to three years. Players were warned to be smart with their money and save in preparation for a work stoppage. Owners were steadfast in causing this lockout on the grounds that 22 of the 30 NBA franchises lost money last season even though the overall popularity of the league seemed on the rise. The playoff ratings indicated that the NBA is holding onto diehard fans while attracting a strong base of casual fans. However, this lockout could not be avoided.

Union Chief Billy Hunter and Union President Derek Fisher, along with player representatives from each franchise, have been in negotiations with Commissioner David Stern and the league since the end of the Finals and a deal has yet to be reached. This lockout was indeed inevitable and now it is official. This is certainly not the same as the NFL lockout. Negotiations are expected to continue soon and many feel that this lockout was a necessary step to ensure that both sides would have to get something done. Even though negotiations will continue, both sides do not seem anywhere near a resolution.

David Stern and the league were unable to avoid this inevitable lockout.

The sticking point for the NBA owners is a hard salary cap. The owners want there to be a set salary number that they are not allowed under any circumstance to exceed. Even though this would hurt the dominance of franchises who love to overspend on their players like the Mavericks, the Lakers, and the Heat, it will also raise the competitiveness of franchises with less money thus making the entire league more competitive. Essentially the owners want the league to step in and save them from themselves and the league itself wants to ensure competitiveness to keep the fan base engaged and interested in the product on the court. The owners are also not thrilled with the guaranteed contracts that NBA players enjoy.

The Union is not willing to budge on much of any of the benefits they have negotiated for in the past. The players do not want a hard cap because they want to allow for teams to overspend for their talents if they want to. They are also standing very strong for their guaranteed contracts. NBA players have the highest average salary of the four professional sports at $5 mil annually and they do not want that to change.  One of the most interesting aspects of the argument over a hard cap is what it would mean for the newly assembled Miami Heat and their big three. Let’s say the NBA imposes a hard cap of $50 million. The big three alone are due to earn nearly $48 million in the next year of their contracts combined. How will the Heat hold on to the big three of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh and still have enough money to fill out the roster if there is a hard cap?

Miami's Big Three could be threatened by the league's proposal of hard salary cap.

The players have been warned but not every player is capable of going a year without a paycheck and owners and the league know this. Players who receive very high compensation will be fine and will most likely continue to receive money from endorsement deals but rookies who have yet to sign contracts and younger players who have not had a chance to save very much money will indeed suffer and will have to be smart during this period of time because many experts forecast that this will indeed go into the season and it looks likely that many games will be lost if not the whole season.

Although this is a clear advantage for the owners, they have their weaknesses as well. A number of owners also own the arena in which their teams play and without basketball those arenas will be empty and thus suffer greatly in the fall. Some would say to just book other events in the arenas which is an option but you have to leave the arena vacant because you never know when the lockout will come to a close. There are also reports that some NBA players, led by Kobe Bryant, are ready to send a message to their bosses by going over to China over the summer to take part in some exhibition games. This would be a way to make money and send a message to the owners that they do not need their franchises to get compensated for their talents.

During the lockout the NBA is being stern (No pun intended) about contact with the players and organizational members. The NBA is prepared to hand down $1 million fines for any contact between coaches, GM’s, organizational members and the players. Sixers head coach Doug Collins embarked on a country-wide trip over the last week to visit with members of his roster to give them workout plans and to make sure that they were in the right mindset to tackle this offseason without his guidance. The league has also decided to crack down on social media. They will allow teams and players to follow one another on Twitter but they are prohibited from mentioning one another in tweets or from messaging one another. Similar rules apply to Facebook and text messaging. If contact needs to be made between players and members of the franchise that is strictly on a personal basis, it is allowed if league permission is first obtained.

Doug Collins will not be able to instruct his young core on how to improve during this lockout.

   

Local Hero Mark Herzlich Featured in NFL Series “Everything to Prove”

Mark Herzlich while playing for Boston College.

In May of 2009 while playing football for Boston College. Pennsylvania native, Mark Herzlich learned that he had developed a rare form of bone cancer known as Ewing’s Sarcoma. Herzlich was preparing for what was to be his senior season at Boston College and few doubted that his football career would last beyond that into the NFL.

Herzlich, a linebacker, made an impact right away in college. He played in every game as a true freshman in route to being named College Football News’ Freshman All American. In 2008 Herzlich was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was a first team All American. Herzlich was a highly touted prospect heading into the 2009 NFL Draft, but he declined to enter the draft to return to BC for another season.

In September of 2009, Herzlich announced that he beat what he described as his toughest opponent, cancer. Herzlich was successful in returning to the field in 2010 for Boston College. He was named the “Most Courageous Athlete” by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at a banquet that I was lucky enough to attend. Herzlich’s speech that evening resonated with every journalist, coach and athlete in the room. It was truly a special moment for an athlete who had overcome so much.

Mark Herzlich leading his Boston College Teammates onto the field.

Herzlich’s next step was to prepare to continue pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL. He was available for selection in the 2011 NFL Draft but no NFL team took a chance on him. With the current lockout in place, Herzlich has not had an opportunity to sign on with an NFL team and was drafted by a UFL franchise. He declined to join in hopes of getting an NFL contract as soon as signing can begin.  

Herzlich continues to workout and train in preparation for a shot in the NFL. He is currently being featured in the series “Everything to Prove” which is being made by NFL Films in conjunction with Gatorade. “Everything to Prove” is a series of web episodes which follow the lives of NFL rookies during this uncertain off-season. Herzlich can be seen in this episode,  http://bit.ly/kyPJ76 which highlights how he is coping with waiting for his NFL chance. You can catch up on all the episodes in the series at NFL.com/EverythingToProve.