Off-field issues talk of Eagles' camp Print
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Thursday, 31 July 2008 09:46
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 BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) -Brian Westbrook could leave any day. Lito Sheppard would welcome a trade. Shawn Andrews remains a no-show.
Training camp for the Philadelphia has become more like a soap opera, and T.O. isn't even here anymore. At least Donovan McNabb isn't involved in any of the controversy for once.
``It feels pretty good,'' McNabb said about not being the center of attention.
While McNabb is focused on football, some of his teammates are dealing with off-field issues. These aren't just backup or role players grabbing the headlines, either. Westbrook, Sheppard and Andrews are key players on a team that's hoping to contend for the Super Bowl. Each has been to the Pro Bowl twice and been named an All-Pro once.
Westbrook, the dynamic running back, has made it clear he wants to restructure his contract because he feels underpaid. Westbrook hired a new agent to get him a new deal, and he hasn't guaranteed that he'll stay in camp if it doesn't happen.
``I want to be compensated like I'm one of the best running backs in the NFL,'' Westbrook said. ``I want the thing to work out. I want to get the most money that I can in the amount of years that I can.''
Westbrook is in the third year of a $25 million, five-year contract he signed in 2005. He's scheduled to earn $3 million this season with a roster bonus of $1.5 million. He'll make $3.5 million next year and $4.5 million in 2010.
The Eagles are willing to give Westbrook more money, but it's a complex negotiation because the collective bargaining agreement has limitations on a signing bonus since his current contract already was tweaked earlier this year.
What if the two sides don't reach a deal?
``I think that's one of those bridges that you have to cross when you get there,'' Westbrook said. ``I'm not sure what's going to happen. I'm not sure what we can get to with the rules. ... I don't have a deadline right now. Hopefully it happens some time soon.''
Sheppard lost his job as the starting left cornerback when the Eagles signed All-Pro Asante Samuel to a huge free agent deal. The team pursued Samuel partly because Sheppard wasn't happy with his contract. He's signed through 2011 with a base salary of $2 million this year.
But the injury-prone Sheppard doesn't have nearly the same leverage as Westbrook. He missed 15 games, including playoffs, over the last three seasons.
When healthy, Sheppard is a shutdown cornerback and a prolific playmaker. He has returned three of his 17 career interceptions for touchdowns and is the only player in league history with two such returns of more than 100 yards.
The Eagles tried to trade Sheppard, but couldn't get equal value. On paper, they have perhaps the best cornerback trio in the league with Samuel, Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. They may not have success if one or two players are unhappy with splitting time.
``My job is to come here, perform and play, and I'll let my agent and the Eagles take care of everything else,'' said Sheppard, who recently hired Drew Rosenhaus to represent him.
Brown, who joined the team with Sheppard in 2002, won't create any problems.
``I don't worry about nobody else's business,'' he said. ``I don't count nobody else's money. I handle my own.''
Andrews' situation is quite strange. The right guard isn't holding out for a new contract. He's staying away for personal reasons, but the organization hasn't excused his absence. That means he's subject to fines of $15,000 per day.
It seems there's a different rumor regarding Andrews every day. Maybe he's overweight (he looked fine at minicamp), considering retirement or having emotional problems. Those who have communicated with him don't know the truth or aren't saying, making it even more mysterious.
``I'm all right with Shawn and his situation he's involved in,'' McNabb said. ``You just want everything to be fine, especially coming into camp. I know that when he makes the decision to come back, we'll welcome him with open arms.''
It used to be the Eagles were a bland, boring, trouble-free bunch under coach Andy Reid. Then T.O. came along and started trouble.
Owens caused turmoil and destroyed team chemistry in 2005 after helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl a season earlier. Those front-lawn sit-ups may have been the highlight of the year.
Things haven't been the same since Owens left, though not quite as dramatic. There's been a different non-football story line every summer at camp. Until this year, it's always been about McNabb.
In '06, the focus was on McNabb because of his feud with Owens and he was coming off season-ending surgery for a sports hernia.
Last year, McNabb again was rebounding from season-ending surgery on his knee. He also had to deal with the team drafting quarterback Kevin Kolb to be his eventual successor. And, there was concern over his feelings because many fans wanted the Eagles to keep Jeff Garcia as the No. 1 QB.
``Ten years, this may be the first time I don't have to answer questions about myself,'' McNabb joked. ``If you guys could keep it that way, it would be excellent.''
Now the questions surround three players who mean even more to the team's success.
 

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