PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Jeremiah Trotter looks around the locker room and sees his future replacement. That doesn't mean the four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker is ready to give up his starting spot just yet.
``I've always been a self-motivator. I've always been someone who plays the game because I love the game and have a passion to play, and have a desire to be the best at what I do,'' Trotter said Saturday after the Philadelphia Eagles opened their minicamp. ``I don't feel any pressure or anything like that.''
The 30-year-old is coming off a sub-par season by his standards. He's also battled knee injuries throughout his nine-year career, which includes seven seasons with the Eagles over two stints. He clearly isn't the player he was a few years ago, but that doesn't mean he can't play at a Pro Bowl level again.
Omar Gaither, a fifth-round pick last year, is considered Trotter's eventual successor. Gaither started the last five regular-season games at weakside linebacker last season, taking over for the ineffective Matt McCoy. The addition of two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes allows Gaither to move back to the middle. He'll likely replace Trotter on passing downs.
Improving the linebacker corps was a top priority for the Eagles in the offseason. The team acquired Spikes in a trade with Buffalo and selected Stewart Bradley in the third round of last month's NFL draft.
Bradley and Chris Gocong, a third-round pick last year who spent the season on injured reserve, are expected to compete for the starting job at strongside linebacker. Dhani Jones, the starter the last three seasons, was released after the draft.
With McCoy still around and second-year pro Tank Daniels in the mix, the Eagles should have interesting competition in minicamps and training camp.
``As young players, that's their job,'' Trotter said. ``They have to be hungry. When I came in I was hungry. I wanted to start. I was doing everything possible to start. It didn't work out that way my rookie year. One day when I'm finished, and Omar's the man, or whoever, he's going to have a young guy pushing him. That's just the way the game goes. There's always competition and everyone fights for their job every year, from top to bottom, players and coaches.''
Trotter had 112 tackles, one interception and no sacks last year. He played more than defensive coordinator Jim Johnson desired because injuries often forced veteran Shawn Barber out of the rotation. When healthy, Barber filled in during passing situations to give Trotter a break. Also, the team's inability to stop the run kept Trotter and the rest of the defense on the field longer than usual.
By the end of the season, Trotter had worn down. It didn't help that he didn't report to training camp last year in top physical condition. Trotter had knee surgery following the 2005 season and chose to rest his body rather than work out as much. As a result, he wasn't as strong as he wanted.
``Coming into the season, being in the best possible shape I can be in and sticking around during the offseason, training hard,'' Trotter said of the adjustments he has made.
Notes: WR Reggie Brown left practice with a leg contusion, but didn't seem too concerned about the injury. ... DE Jevon Kearse, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last year, practiced for the first time. ``He looked great,'' coach Andy Reid said. ... Reid said he understood Donovan McNabb saying he was shocked the team drafted QB Kevin Kolb with its first pick in last month's NFL draft. ``He knew we had worked the quarterbacks out,'' Reid said. ``There is no need to (call McNabb prior to the draft). I don't do that with any position. There is no need to do that. It wasn't an absolute that we were going to take a quarterback. All of a sudden if you go around and alert players that you are going to take a guy and you don't end up taking one, that's not a good sign, either.''... McNabb (knee), DT Montae Reagor (knee), TE L.J. Smith (sick), WR Bethel Johnson (tibia) and LT William Thomas (knee) didn't practice. Only Smith is expected to participate in this minicamp. FS Brian Dawkins was excused from camp for personal reasons.

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