There's one thing guaranteed to turn the near-endless optimism of training camp into an hand-wringing experience. That thing: injuries
And in recent days, as the first pre-season game versus the Ravens approaches, the list of Birds with clipped wings is getting alarmingly long. Stalwarts like L.J. Smith, Jon Runyan, Brian Dawkins, and Shawn Andrews are all currently out. Heck, these guys have gotten all the recognition but another key defender, CB Lito Sheppard, seems to have missed a lot of time with an oblique problem. He only returned to practice on the final day (He had been sidelined with an oblique strain for most of camp). Ok, so he's a key player and probably doesn't need camp to learn anything, but it'd still be comforting to see him out there.
So should we start worrying? hmmm, Rich Hoffman just ran down a few key injuries. He says, worry about LJ, but don't start about Andrews or Dawk.
A bit of good news to report. Runyan and Guard Scott Young (who had a knee scare yesterday) both returned to practice on Saturday. (whew) Not sure if the bullet is truly dodged with those two, but, I'll say this, with our All-Pro Andrews resting a sprained ankle, I do not want his top replacement RG AND our stalwart RT both out....give them time to rest, I want Andrews and Runyan starting in Green Bay in September.
The injury I am most concerned about at this point is L.J.'s recent groin injury, which when coupled with his return from "sports hernia" surgery in May, tells me we might be minus a major offensive weapon for a significant portion of the '07 season. Without L.J., we simply won't have a deep-threat at TE. We might get a surprise deep pass with Schobel or rookie Brent Celek, but not a consistent threat that defenses must respect like we have with Smith on the line.
Second is Shawn Andrews. We want to run the ball more this year. And big Shawn is a world-class road-grader. I mean, he annihilates linebackers, DTs, DEs, anybody......Last year the Eagles kept their O-line together the entire year, and while I have faith that the coaches have ready back-ups, I would like to see us repeat the feat.
Finally there is Brian Dawkins. Normally I'd be quite worried that my all-time favorite Eagle was injured and having Dawk out with Achilles tendinitis (which harkens back to the sort of devastating injury suffered by new LB Takeo Spikes). But unlike a few (now on "timeout") posters on my favorite board (Philly.com's) I am not ready to declare Dawkins' career "over" or declare him as good as "done". The Eagles are going to be cautious with their key players. Stressing them out now serves no one. Better to let them rest. The season is long. Let the new guys take the beating vs the Ravens....I don't need to see any of our rehabbing guys until pre-season game 3.....