Injuries hurting chances for some Eagles

Posted: August 23, 2011

THERE IS an old saying in sports that is as true today as it was the first time it was uttered decades ago.

You can't make the club in the tub.

For those few of you needing a translation, the tub is the whirlpool in the training room where injured players often can be found trying to heal their pulled hamstrings and sprained ankles and sore shoulders and aching backs so that they can get back on the field and back into the consciousness of the coaches who will decide their roster fate.

The Eagles have a number of players who are spending a lot more time with the team's training staff than they are with the coaching staff. That could end up costing some a roster job and others a starting opportunity as the clock tick, tick, ticks toward the Sept. 11 season opener in St. Louis.

They include veterans such as offensive tackles Winston Justice and Ryan Harris, defensive end Juqua Parker, defensive tackles Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws, and safety Marlin Jackson, and younger players such as second-year defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and rookie linebacker Greg Lloyd.

Justice, who started 13 games at right tackle last season, still hasn't recovered sufficiently enough from February knee surgery to practice. He acknowledged this week that he still is experiencing pain on the outside of the knee.

Coach Andy Reid said the other day that Justice still has "a little bit to go here," which would seem to suggest there's not a very good chance he'll be ready for the start of the season. The question then becomes: What do they do with him?

Will they keep him on the 53-man roster and wait for him to heal? Will they put him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which would shelve him for a minimum of 6 weeks? Will they put him on injured reserve? Or will they release him?

That last one isn't totally out of the realm of possibility when you consider Justice's $3.7 million cap number ($2.7 million in base salary) and the fact that the Eagles, who are about $2 million under the cap right now, are going to have to clear some cap space when they give DeSean Jackson his long-overdue contract extension.

They might be more willing to release Justice if Harris, whom they signed late last month to compete for - and presumably win - the starting right-tackle job, could stay healthy. But he has been on the shelf for the last 2 weeks with back spasms. Can you say Shawn Andrews, boys and girls?

Parker hasn't practiced since suffering a calf injury in the preseason opener against Baltimore on Aug. 11. He's 33, has a $4.3 million cap number and is coming off a season in which he had just two sacks after Week 3.

With the signing of Jason Babin, his role was going to be reduced anyway. The fact that he's not on the field making a case to the coaching staff and front office for keeping him, doesn't help.

Laws and Dixon both have been out since early August, Laws with a hip flexor and Dixon with a knee sprain, then back spasms. Dixon is safe because of his value to the club as a run stuffer, though he's likely lost his starting job to newcomer Cullen Jenkins. But Laws, who is coming off his best NFL season, has lost ground to another impressive newcomer, Derek Landri, since he got hurt. If the Eagles decide to keep just four defensive tackles, Laws could be the odd man out.

Jackson is pretty much a dead man walking. Two ACL injuries and a ruptured Achilles' limited him to 11 games over the last three seasons. He tore the Achilles' last June after signing with the Eagles and missed the entire 2010 season. He was a longshot to make the team anyway, but when he was diagnosed with a sports hernia early in training camp, those odds skyrocketed.

Te'o-Nesheim was a third-round pick in last year's draft, but had a disappointing rookie season. He has been battling CFL import Phillip Hunt for what could be the final defensive-end spot on the roster. But he suffered a hamstring strain in the game against Pittsburgh last week, and probably won't be able to play Thursday against the Browns, which means more opportunities for Hunt to flash and impress the coaches.

Lloyd, a seventh-round pick in the April draft, already was facing an uphill battle for a roster spot. Missing last week's game against against the Steelers and nearly 2 weeks of practice with a high ankle sprain hasn't helped his chances any. He returned to practice yesterday, but his best hope at this point probably is the practice squad.

"When you're no lock to make the team, you've got to be kind of lucky as far as injuries," said tight end Brent Celek. "If it does happen, you just have to get back as soon as possible. Hopefully, guys who get hurt, they'll get a second chance. But it doesn't always work out that way in this league."

Kurt Coleman understands the luck part. A year ago, he, like Lloyd, was a long-odds seventh-rounder. If he had missed any significant time in training camp or the preseason last summer, he probably wouldn't have made the team. Now, he's one of the team's starting safeties.

"It's not just about the reps [you miss if you're hurt]," Coleman said. "It's about being in the coach's face all the time. When you're in the training room, they never see you.

"Especially as you get close to cut day, close to the season, you want to be around and you want to be that guy they're talking about the most."

And not because you've been spending a lot of time in the training room.

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