- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

Less than a month after Philadelphia lost Super Bowl XXXIX to New England on Feb. 6, 2005, Eagles rookie backup safety J.R. Reed seriously injured his left leg after colliding with a fence as he tried to run away from a dog. With his severed peroneal nerve healing, Reed missed all of 2005, but he was on the field for minicamp this spring and is hopeful of returning to action this fall.

“I feel everything is normal,” said Reed, who practiced with a special brace to stabilize the lower leg and ankle. “I can break and cut. I just can’t go full speed. I’ve just got to get a little more strength in the leg.”

Coach Andy Reid said Reed “probably runs better than he walks” thanks to the brace, which allows the foot to spring back into position. Special teams coach John Harbaugh thought Reed looked like his old self.

“He looks just as fast, just as quick,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure that when he has to change direction to go make a tackle, return the kick and make a cut, or maybe run through a tackle … that’s probably where we’ll see it.”

Still, Reed heads into training camp as a candidate to back up safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis and to serve as a punt returner along with former Maryland star Bruce Perry.

Another young Eagle making a comeback from a devastating injury is defensive end Jerome McDougle, who was shot in the stomach just before camp opened last July. McDougle, Philadelphia’s top pick in the 2003 draft, also was in uniform at minicamp after spending all of 2005 on injured reserve.

“I feel real good,” McDougle said. “It’s good to get back. Some people are not blessed or fortunate enough to come back from something like that, let alone play football.”

McDougle could wind up in a rotation at defensive end with holdovers Jevon Kearse and Trent Cole and free agent newcomer Darren Howard.

“Jerome looked good,” Reid said. “He looked very explosive out there.”

Although the comebacks of Reed and McDougle would be the most dramatic, a stunning 17 Eagles finished 2005 on some sort of injured list. Most notably, quarterback Donovan McNabb gutted his way though nine games before giving in to the pain of a sports hernia in November. Already struggling, the Eagles went 2-5 the rest of the way en route to the NFC East cellar.

“I would like to say [I’m] 100 percent, but you never know until you put the pads on,” McNabb said. “When I’m in the weight room, I’m not going to pull back on the weight. I’m not going to get out on the field and pull back on the running. I’m going to work harder. I’m going to make sure I’m in the best shape possible coming into camp. I’m a competitor first and foremost. If we are walking to the bathroom, the cafeteria, I’m going to try and beat you. I’m not going to slow down just because I hurt myself maybe the day before.”

It’s gotta be the coaches — Oakland was an AFC-worst 13-35 over the past three seasons. The offensive line deleted veteran guard Ron Stone and didn’t add anyone of note. But guard Barry Sims believes the new coaching staff, led by Hall of Fame head man Art Shell, will make a huge difference up front.

“We’ve got three O-line coaches [Shell and assistants Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman] with 50 years’ experience and two Hall of Famers [Shell and Slater], so there’s really not a whole lot of excuses that will really work,” Sims said. “Those guys have seen everything and done everything. I think the offensive line will be much improved from the previous few years. And any time you have an offensive line that can be productive, your team’s going to be more productive.”

And then were eight — Eighteen months after Butch Davis was fired as Cleveland’s coach, just eight of his 29 draft choices remain. Of those eight, only linebacker Andra Davis and oft-injured tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. figure to start this season. Linebacker Chaun Thompson, a starter in 2005, should be supplanted by free agent pickup Willie McGinest.

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