Lito hurt in opener, again

Posted: September 10, 2007

GREEN BAY - Last year in the opener at Houston, Lito Sheppard sprained his ankle. In 2004, when the Eagles opened at home against the Giants, Sheppard broke a thumb.

Maybe the Birds should look into letting their Pro Bowl corner start his season in Week 2.

"I'll be all right," Sheppard said as he walked into the visitors' locker room at Lambeau Field, following the season-opening 16-13 loss to the Packers. "I like taking a break at the beginning."

Sheppard suffered what coach Andy Reid called an MCL sprain just before halftime, when he got tangled with safety Sean Considine and Green Bay receiver Ruvell Martin at the end of a broken-up pass. Sheppard's left leg was wrapped after the game. He was walking normally, which doesn't always mean much with regard to knee injuries. Reid said Sheppard would have an MRI exam today.

"It'll be a little bit," Reid said, when asked the severity of the injury.

"I took the mass of that collision," Sheppard said. "Hopefully, it's not too serious . . . For whatever reason, the first game of the season has been going that way. But we're going to bounce back and keep this thing moving."

Sheppard's injury meant nickel corner Will James became a starter, and Joselio Hanson took the nickel role. When Hanson was kneed in the head and suffered a concussion, safety Quintin Mikell was pressed into duty as an emergency corner for the Packers' final two drives.

"I feel a lot more comfortable this year," said Hanson, who was new to the team when he was forced into action last season.

Mikell said he hadn't played corner since a similar emergency, also against the Packers, in 2005.

"Not even in practice," Mikell said. "It's all good, though . . . I prepared this week, not necessarily to play there, but to play. I was ready for everything."

The Westbrook option

Andy Reid was noncommital when asked what will happen with the Eagles' punt-return situation, following the two muffed punts that accounted for 10 of the Packers' 16 points. Reid said he did not consider sending Brian Westbrook back to field punts after Greg Lewis encountered repeated problems. Instead, the Birds switched to J.R. Reed, whose muff at the end of the game led to the winning field goal. Asked if Westbrook might do some returning a week from tonight against the Redskins, Reid said: "We'll see."

Westbrook noted that Lewis and Reed "made some decisions that they would like to have back."

Asked about doing the job himself, Westbrook, who ran back two punts for touchdowns in 2003, said: "If it comes down to it, I'll do it."

L.J. OK, more or less

The intriguing L.J. Smith situation took another twist over the weekend when the Eagles downgraded their starting tight end from probable to questionable following the Saturday walkthrough. Smith said nothing happened in the walkthrough, except he had a chance to confer with coaches about his feelings that his surgically repaired groin wasn't feeling all that great.

Then Smith appeared on the Lambeau Field tundra a couple of hours before the game, stretching and jogging, and he played without incident. Smith caught two passes for 14 yards.

"I just feel like even if I'm 85 percent I can still help," Smith said afterward. "I know what my situation is . . . I'm not looking at it the way most people think I should, I'm looking at it as far as our team, and I'm trying to play the game and contribute. I'm not looking at it like a business transaction."

Smith was referring to the fact that his contract is up after this season, and the Eagles seem enamored of fifth-round rookie Brent Celek.

Celek, by the way, felt strongly that he recovered the J.R. Reed punt muff that set up Green Bay's winning field goal. The officials ruled the Packers' Jarrett Bush had the ball.

"I had it the whole time," Celek said. "I don't understand the decision."

Birdseed

Sav Rocca punted seven times for a 40.4 yard average gross and a 35.7 net . . . Kevin Kolb was the backup, in his first NFL game, and A.J. Feeley was the third QB, because of Feeley's broken left hand . . . The Eagles went with their preseason idea of using backup center Nick Cole as a backup guard as well, which allowed them to activate offensive tackle Winston Justice. Justice, a second-round draft pick in 2006, was never active during his rookie season. He did not play yesterday. Using Cole in both spots meant guard Scott Young was deactivated . . . Second-round rookie defensive end Victor Abiamiri was deactivated. Third-round rookie running back Tony Hunt was active but did not play. *

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