Injuries, tragedy haven't slowed Eagles
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles haven't played a game yet and already the Super Bowl optimism at the outset of training camp has been substituted with a gloom-and-doom forecast from various outlets.
The grim news just hasn't reached Reid yet.
"Injuries happen, but that's why you build an organization and build a roster," Reid said. "But there's nothing that has happened that has really discouraged me, even though you hate to have season-ending injuries. I feel pretty good about our team."
That doesn't mean Reid is insensitive to the tragic loss of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, whose initials were painted boldly in black and white on a small hill at the edge of the practice field at Lehigh University.
"Jim's gone, but he isn't gone," said Reid. "He really touched everybody in the organization. It was an amazing deal. I mean, [a defensive coordinator] touched everything in this organization, from marketing to accounting. From a coaching standpoint, I think we all strive to be like Jim Johnson because he was a great coach on the field and handled things so well off the field, from a being a father, a husband and as a friend."
Reid added, "I never met a person who didn't like Jim Johnson. Now he was tough on players and you could find players who didn't necessarily like Jim Johnson. But they respected him and that's what counts with players." For all the injury talk in the Eagles' camp, the biggest question is whether 35-year-old Sean McDermott can fill the large shoes of Johnson, especially when it's game day and McDermott has just 20 to 30 seconds to make a critical defensive call.
"You're right, you don't know until you through it, but I anticipate [McDermott] being top notch. He's coached a couple of different positions, secondary and linebackers," Reid said. "He's been here for 10 years under Jim Johnson. He's a sharp, sharp kid -- a William & Mary grad -- and he's [an] intense, intense competitor.
"And McDermott's got red hair, so know he's got something else going for him."
Reid, who is known as "Big Red" around the Eagles' organization, refuses to apologize for maintaining his rigid, physical camp approach, regardless of season-ending injuries to linebacker Stewart Bradley and rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram.
"I believe blocking and tackling is still involved in this game and until they change it, you gotta practice a certain way [in training camp]," said Reid. "We practice blocking and tackling, so we have live [hitting] team periods and if you do it the right way, don't take cheap shots on each other, it works. We've had injuries this year, but the crazy part about it is, they weren't in live periods. You get some bumps and bruises but normally they don't get hurt because they're going after it pretty good."
Here's what else I learned at Eagles camp, the 11th stop on my training camp bus tour:
"It's night and day for me," said Jackson.
Explained Reid: "He's ready to take the next big step. Last year, he could run routes versus air and make some plays on raw ability, but there are adjustments you make in this offense. Until you've seen all the things these crazy defensive coordinators throw at you, there's a big transition. So he's seeing what it's all about now and he's ready."
"We have played them every preseason since I've been here," he said. "Bill Belichick and I are good friends and we like to get after each other, even in preseason, whether it's ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos or threes vs. threes. I think I'm one up on Bill in the preseason series. Unfortunately, he's got three [Super Bowl] trophies on me."
"Nothing works well if both lines aren't working well," Reid said.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.
MORT GOES TO CAMP
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen's 21-team bus tour of training camps is over. Mort's trip started in Arlington, Texas, where he met Dallas owner Jerry Jones at the team's new stadium and ended in Miami Gardens, Fla., for a visit with the Dolphins. Mort camp page