Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Living Jim Johnson memorial at camp

Freshly painted on the edge of the Lehigh University practice field this morning is "JJ," a tribute to Jim Johnson, the late Eagles' defensive coordinator.

Enclosed in a circle on a black background, the white letters are the first of what will be several tributes to Johnson, who passed away Tuesday afternoon after a lengthy battle with melanoma.

A living memorial was set up in the tent area that Eagles fans can add to on their visit. The next practices open to the public are at 8:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Friday.

Fans at the Eagles' Flight Night Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field can watch video highlights of Johnson and some of his defenses before reflecting on his loss during a moment of silence.

Other memorials are pending. Privately the Eagles intend to play the season with "JJ" lettered on their helmets.

Funeral services likely will be private for Johnson, survived by his wife Vicky, two sons and four grandchildren.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sadly, Jim Johnson's fight ends

Former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson’s courageous battle with melanoma is over.

Johnson, 68, passed away Tuesday afternoon according to the Eagles.

Johnson took a turn for the worse recently according to sources, and the muffled talk at Eagles training camp Tuesday morning was he was fighting to stay alive.

Head coach Andy Reid visited Johnson Monday night according to a source.

Except for a stiff back, Johnson was the picture of health before the melanoma recurred. The end was difficult.

“He’s in a better place,” an Eagles assistant coach said.

Eagles president Joe Banner and head coach Andy Reid are going to address the media this evening.

Johnson stepped aside as defensive coordinator after 10-plus years last week, and protégé Sean McDermott took over.

Johnson had been unable to coach since the minicamp in early May.

Johnson, 68, took another turn for the worse recently according to sources and the muffled talk at Eagles training camp Tuesday morning was he was fighting to stay alive.

Reid visited Johnson Monday night according to a source.

Johnson stepped aside as defensive coordinator after 10-plus years last week, enabling protege Sean McDermott to take over the job for the start of training camp.

Johnson has been unable to coach since the early May minicamp due to the melanoma that sapped his strength and compounded the pain from a lower back condition.

Johnson, nonetheless, coached that entire camp from the seat of a scooter that got him around the practice field.

Reid has lost 80 pounds; doesn't want Vick

Andy Reid said he's shed almost 80 pounds.

Not enough, though, to lose the nickname of Big Red.

"I'm not going to be flying away in a windstorm here," Reid said after the morning practice at Lehigh U. "But I feel good.

The weight loss cannot be anything but great news as the Eagles' head coach who still tilts the scales at over 300 pounds.

Reid said he has followed the guidance of The University of Maryland's Center for Weight Management and Wellness to drop the baggage.

Last year, particularly after games, Reid was noticeably out of breath or suffering from shortness of breath. It was most apparent at post-game news conferences.

That hasn't been the case at all thus far in training camp.

At his news conference after the Tuesday morning practice Reid said he thought Michael Vick, who has been reinstated to the NFL after serving a sentence for dog fighting, deserved another chance but that the Eagles liked their quarterback situation.

Standing out during the Eagles' morning practice was rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram and quarterback, who was sharp after taking the previous practice off.

Still not in camp: rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Reid called the negotiations a day-to-day thing and said the deal could be done at any moment.

Monday, July 27, 2009

McNabb: T.O. show, unrealistic expectations must go

Donovan McNabb explained after his first training camp practice Monday morning he felt old "but not that old.

"I'm not Brett (Favre)," the 32-year-old McNabb said.

McNabb, in his 11th season, still is trying to get comfortable with the loss of veterans Brian Dawkins, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Back, however, is the sense of humor missing since he was benched in the Balimore game last season.

Asked what he would do improve the Terrell Owens reality show that premiered recently, one McNabb conceded he watched, the quarterback replied, "by not having it."

The tent erupted in laughter again when McNabb was popped another question starting with "in all seriousness ... "

"I'm serious, man," McNabb said.

McNabb and Owens, who has clashed with him, obviously aren't on texting terms these days.

Interestingly enoiugh McNabb didn't endorse team president Joe Banner's recent declaration the Eagles have "the best roster in the league."

"What do you expect Joe to say?" McNabb said. "Does it put pressure on us? No. Does it put pressure on the coaches? No. Does it put pressure on Joe? Maybe. But for us, well, I've never complained about the players that we've had on our team. When we're out on the field we have to be able to execute and execute together."

"We've got a lot of 20 and 21-year-old kids on this team. I've seen a lot of what they've done in college. But again it goes back to can you do the same things you did in college on the pro level? Some have it and some don't have it."

Unsigned first round draft pick Jeremy Maclin, the wide receiver out of Missouri, missed practice and officially is a holdout. While McNabb said he doesn't think missing a day of practice will kill Maclin, he's one of those 21-year-olds the Eagles are counting on.

Said McNabb, "I'm sure he and his agent and Joe and Andy and those guys will sit down and resolve something and give him an opportunity to get here so he can kind of get his feet wet and battle and compete with the rest of the guys."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Maclin in range of camp; Pinkston is coaching intern

The Eagles wouldn't confirm or deny it but sources say rookie first round draft pick Jeremy Maclin is close enough to Bethlehem to drive into camp if is contract gets done.

And the Eagles quietly think there's a chance Maclin will strike a deal before he becomes just the first holdout since Brodrick Bunkley in 2006.

Rookies were due to report by 5 p.m. Sunday. The first practice is Monday morning at 8:45. Maclin hadn't arrived as of 4 p.m.

Rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram, who said he struck up a close relationship with Maclin from their offseason work with Donovan McNabb near the quarterback's residence in Arizona, isn't the least bit concerned about the potential holdout.

"He'll be in camp," Ingram said upon checking into his dorm room. "Just talking to him, he's ready for the season to start. He'll be here."

Also, former Eagles second round draft pick Todd Pinkston, who last played in the first half of the 2005 Super Bowl, will assist wide receivers coach David Culley at camp.

Pinkston, now 32 years old, wants to get into coaching.

Pinkston says he weighs 205 pounds, which is about 30 over his playing weight. A torn Achilles' tendon in the 2005 training camp here at Lehigh U. sidelined him for 1 1-2 years. Pinkston gave up the playing days after being unable to impress the Redskins and the Vikings in tryouts.

"Andy (Reid) wasn't surprised to see me," Pinkston said. "He just said that I've put on a little weight."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Zordich coaching secondary; Maclin could sign before rookies practice

Andy Reid has hired Penn State product Michael Zordich to coach the secondary along with Brian Stewart, who also is assisting Sean McDermott.

Zordich replaces Otis Smith, the former Eagle and Patriot who left the Birds shortly after Phillips arrived.

Zordich helped lead the Ray Rhodes Eagles to the playoffs in 1995-96, as he was a starting safety. He brings a wealth of experience and leadership to a secondary trying to replace veteran Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins.

Also, the Eagles feel they have a decent shot of signing first round pick Jeremy Maclin, the wide receiver out of Missouri, before the rookies open training camp Monday at Lehigh University. Just two first round draft choices had signed as of noon Saturday.

Maclin, represented by Jim Steiner, is the only Eagles draft pick who hasn't signed.