Eagles veterans report to camp

Eagles safety Nate Allen blocks a soccer ball punted by Ken Parrish during a special-teams drill on Thursday.
Eagles safety Nate Allen blocks a soccer ball punted by Ken Parrish during a special-teams drill on Thursday.
Posted: July 30, 2010

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Donovan McNabb said it. Brian Dawkins said it.

Year after year, decade after decade, NFL players land at training camp and make bold proclamations about winning a Super Bowl or bust.

Of course, only one team will make good on such a declaration.

But there was tight end Brent Celek, the Eagles' newly crowned leader, saying it Thursday upon his and the rest of the veterans' arrival at Lehigh University.

"If I didn't think we could win the Super Bowl I wouldn't be standing here," Celek said as he stood outside the dorms that house the Eagles during camp. "I would take my butt back home and sit on my couch because all this is for nothing.

"We're out here to win a ring, and 31 [other] teams around the NFL are here to do the same thing. We have just as good a shot as everyone else, and we're here to prove it."

Some may argue with the "just as good a shot as everyone else" part of Celek's statement. But the sentiment is notable as a young team looks to find its footing. McNabb, Dawkins, and Brian Westbrook are no longer here (in case you haven't heard). That core group brought the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia much glory, but it did not bring a Lombardi trophy.

The new era, with Kevin Kolb replacing McNabb under center, Celek as the vocal, Dawkins type, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson as the Westbrook-like playmaker, is upon us.

"There are no excuses," said safety Quintin Mikell, one of the few leftovers from the Eagles team that last reached the Super Bowl, in February 2005. "We were young [last year] and that wasn't an excuse. Just like this year it's not an excuse. It wasn't an excuse last year when [McNabb] said it."

But McNabb did say it - "We showed our youth today," the quarterback said once after a loss - and it rubbed some of the younger players the wrong way. This group is even younger. The average age is 24.1 years.

After McNabb's trade to Washington and Kolb's promotion, Jackson, 23, called the core group on offense - Kolb (25), Celek (25), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (22), and running back LeSean McCoy (22) - the "Young Guns."

"There's been a lot of talk," Mikell said. "We've been talking all off-season about this youth movement. A lot of guys have been saying, 'It's time for the youth.' Well, now it's time to put up or shut up."

Jackson wasn't talking Thursday. In fact, he said, "I'm not talking," when reporters approached the receiver as he quickly walked to his black Porsche. He got in his car, picked up cornerback Asante Samuel, and sped away.

Jackson and Samuel were early arrivals not because they wanted to get the top bunks but because coach Andy Reid told them to be there early. Over an hour before the rookies practiced in the morning, the pair ran 100-yard sprints.

They were completing the conditioning test they missed in June, according to a team source, when they skipped the last week of voluntary workouts. Several players said Jackson and Samuel were required to be here early not for the fitness test but because they didn't complete off-season training.

Because Jackson chose not to attend the last spring workouts there was the belief that he was making some sort of statement about his contract situation. Publicly he has said he wants a new deal but that he wasn't going to rock any boats. His attendance Thursday suggested as much.

"I think he's happy," Maclin said. "That's a question you obviously got to ask him yourself. I don't know about the situation with negotiations or what's going on with that. But he's here."

Samuel's absence from workouts wasn't much of a surprise, although the team said he was attending to a death in the family. He certainly doesn't have a contract beef, now in the third year of a six-year, $59 million deal. He wasn't available for comment.

If Jackson's and Samuel's silence painted one picture, it did not sully the aspirations for the rest of the team eager to stack itself up against the rest of the league.

"We got so much potential to be good," McCoy said. "If you look [across] the board from the starters to the backups, I think were as good as any team, especially on offense."

The "Super Bowl or bust" road starts for real Friday morning, when the full team gathers for conditioning, and later in the day for a short practice, and Saturday, when the pads come on and the hitting commences.

"We go into camp every year and the goal is to win the Super Bowl," Celek said. "We're not going to stop short of that."


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane.

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