Farmer Out, Jasper In As Hall Nurses Knee

Posted: September 18, 1998

The injury bug has bitten the Eagles again, in a bad place and at a bad time.

The biggest game of the year comes around for the Eagles - against possibly the worst offensive line they will face all year and the NFC's worst-rated passer in Jake Plummer - and their top returning pass rusher is out.

Rhett Hall will at least miss Sunday's game in Arizona due to the patella tendinitis in his surgically reconstructed left knee (torn ligaments in Game 15 last year). Trainer James Collins said that the tendinitis was exacerbated by the first two games, both played on artificial turf.

The tendinitis is common in players recovering from Hall's injury, Collins said.

``He's got a bad case of it,'' Collins said.

The team cut former starting linebacker Ray Farmer and re-signed Ed Jasper yesterday to replace Hall. Jasper, a run-stuffer who played 10 games as a rookie in 1997, was cut Aug. 30.

The burden of Hall's job of third-down pass rusher now falls to end/tackle Jon Harris and, perhaps more so, to rookie Brandon Whiting, who was drafted in the fourth round out of the University of California to do just that.

``It's an opportunity,'' said Whiting, whose playing time has been limited by Hall's presence. ``I'll finally get a chance to rush the passer a little bit.''

Coach Ray Rhodes would not commit to naming Hall's replacement, though Whiting appears to be the only possible choice.

Good news for Whiting does not translate to glad tidings for the Eagles.

Hall, 29, is an eight-year pro. His eight sacks led the team last season. He was expected to team with end Hugh Douglas, for whom the Eagles traded in February, to bolster a pass rush that often was absent last season.

However, Hall and Douglas have combined for just a half-sack in the first two games, and that half belongs to Douglas. (The league allowed Douglas half of a sack it credited to Tim McTyer in Atlanta on Sunday.)

Still, Douglas will miss Hall's presence, which occasionally drew enough attention as to alleviate the double teams that Douglas routinely draws.

``We have no choice but to deal with it,'' Douglas said, sighing at the prospect of Hall's absence. Douglas then brightened a bit. ``Brandon's going to be OK,'' he said. ``We still can do some things against Plummer.''

Just not as much.

While Jasper's return might have been necessary, Farmer's cut cast a minor pall over the locker room.

``I was surprised,'' cornerback Troy Vincent said. ``That's a decision that comes from upstairs.''

Vincent said that he saw Farmer, 24, exiting the locker room with the trademark gray garbage bag that indicates forced departure from Eagledom.

While Farmer's fellow linebackers continued their intermittent boycott of the local press, Vincent allowed that Farmer ``wasn't happy about it.''

After such a fall from prominence, Farmer's disappointment is understandable.

A fourth-round pick out of Duke in 1995, Farmer converted from strong safety and supplanted Marc Woodard at left outside linebacker by Game 6. The Eagles signed Darrin Smith to play Farmer's spot in 1997, though Farmer managed three starts when Smith was injured.

However, late last season the Birds moved second-round rookie James Darling to left outside linebacker from his backup spot in the middle. Farmer was playing behind Darling and two-time Pro Bowl linebacker William Thomas, with few prospects of breaking into the lineup.

He had been relegated to special teams, where he accounted for 16 tackles in '96, eight in '97 and two this season. Rookie tight end Kaseem Sinceno, signed Wednesday from the practice squad, will replace Farmer on special teams.

``This wasn't easy. It was strictly a numbers thing with him,'' Rhodes said. ``It's hard to go [to Arizona] with seven defensive linemen,'' which was how many the Eagles would have without Hall dressing and without Jasper on the roster.

Farmer was not available for comment. Rhodes said he expects Farmer to quickly be claimed off waivers.

Jasper was claimed by the Saints when the Eagles cut him last month, but they rescinded the claim and he has been unemployed since. He had been staying in Philadelphia in an apartment complex close to Veterans Stadium and running daily at FDR Park, across Broad Street from the stadium. He was preparing to return home to Texas.

``Everything's in boxes,'' Jasper said. ``We were going to be on the road tomorrow.''

Instead, his jolly countenance returned to the Vet yesterday after 2 1/2 weeks of job-hunting.

After winding up 23rd in the league against the run, the Birds are glad to have him back.

``It's going to help a lot,'' said Douglas, who, like Hall, is a tad undersized for his position. ``It'll be good to have somebody fresh, especially late in the game, when defenses wear down. We're not the biggest defensive line in the league.''

Rhodes said that a decision on Jasper's retention will be made next week, after Jasper plays and after Hall's knee is re-examined.

Asked if he plans on unpacking many of the boxes, Jasper shook his head and sagely said, ``No.''

COMING TOGETHER Ray Rhodes promised to clean up the penalties, poor decisions and panic that marred the final moments of the first half in the 17-12 loss to the Falcons.

``We've worked on those things,'' he said tersely. ``We've addressed them.''

Pressed to comment on the performance of new offensive coordinator Dana Bible, whose attack is last in the league, Rhodes was irritated.

``I'm not here to rate people's performance,'' he said. ``I'm trying to win a football game. Right now, we're trying to win a football game, and that's all we need to talk about right now.

``We haven't scored a lot of points. I know that. But there are a lot of reasons. There are a lot of things going on. We've got to get some things better in a lot of areas. Not just offensively, but defensively. We've got things we've got to get done.''

BIRDSEED Ray Farmer's departure does not affect the status of middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, a third-round rookie. Trotter, whose development as a linebacker and as a special-teamer has been slow, has not yet dressed for a game and likely will not Sunday . . . The Eagles signed rookie defensive tackle Henry Slay to their practice squad . . . Cornerback Clarence Love is listed on the injury report for the concussion he suffered in the opener Sept. 6, but Rhodes said he was fine.

Send e-mail to hayesm@phillynews.com or call our tip line at 215-854-5474.

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