PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Yes, that dripping sweat glistening off the heads of tight end L.J. Smith and cornerback Lito Sheppard was formed in the heat of a real Philadelphia Eagles practice.
No need to stand on the sideline or work on some lonely rehab inside the practice facility. Sheppard, Smith, and even running back Brian Westbrook all practiced Wednesday, giving the Eagles hope they might finally come close to their regular lineup this week against the Jets.
``Hopefully I can make some leaps and bounds before Sunday,'' said Smith, the starting tight end. ``I can't rush anything if my body doesn't let me. I'm just going to go out there every day and keep doing more and more.''
Sheppard, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has been inactive since he sprained his MCL in his right knee in the first game of the season. Smith missed the last two games after having surgery to repair scar tissue in his groin from an offseason sports hernia. And Westbrook, a former 1,000-yard rusher, has only practiced sporadically and missed a game with an abdominal strain.
But on Wednesday, the Eagles' locker room was actually a place for starters to take off their pads after practice instead of pass by on the way to the trainer's room. The Eagles sure need their stars: The defending NFC East champions are in last place and 0-2 in the division.
Westbrook said he felt good as he walked to the locker room.
``I feel a lot better than after the bye week,'' he said. ``This is an injury that takes time to heal.''
While Smith said he took some snaps with the first team, Sheppard sat out the team drills and focused on individual work. Sheppard said there was a chance he could play Sunday.
``I can't get out there and be half Lito,'' Sheppard said.
Not bad considering coach Andy Reid had told the media earlier in the day that Sheppard wouldn't practice. But Reid also said tackle William Thomas (MCL sprain) would practice, and the veteran instead sat out. So did guard Todd Herremans (knee) and safety Brian Dawkins (stinger).
``It just didn't feel right,'' Thomas said. ``When it's not feeling right, you can't push it.''
Reid expects Thomas and Herremans to play, but Max Jean-Gilles and Winston Justice would be ready to go, if needed. Justice was abused in his first NFL start against the Giants and was part of an offensive-line meltdown that saw New York sack Donovan McNabb a stunning 12 times.
``I've spoken to him and just let him know that you have down days and you also have great days,'' McNabb said. ``(He) has the support from me and the rest of the guys that things are going to be OK.''
Dawkins, though, still isn't OK after he suffered a stinger in a loss against Washington and sat out the last two games. The heart of the defense on the field and in the locker room, Dawkins skipped his usual Wednesday media availability and Reid said the safety was day to day.
``When you're dealing with nerves, you don't know,'' Reid said. ``You just don't know how long those are going to take. Dawk's very honest with us on how he feels and that's important.''
At least the Eagles now will have Reid calling the plays on Sunday - and through 2010 - as long as the franchise wants him. With the Eagles on a bye, an Internet rumor spread that Reid would step down as coach because of his two oldest sons' legal issues. Reid took the unusual step of addressing the report during the bye week because he wanted to end any speculation.
``I'm not blog efficient, but it sounds like people can be very creative there,'' Reid said on Wednesday. ``I'm here. As long as the Philadelphia Eagles want me, I'm here.''
Westbrook said he wasn't surprised his coach never considered quitting.
``He will stick in there and continue to fight,'' he said. ``He's had his problems with his family and things like that and the team's not doing so well. But at the same time, he's going to continue to fight with us, he's in the trenches with us. We know that he's a fighter.''

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