By Bill Campbell
The 2011 NFL season is now just hours away. And on the attitude scale the Eagles seem to be more than ready. They’ve spent a lot this off-season to acquire new players and new coaches and their stamp of approval seems to be justified in the locker room. Michael Vick’s words, that personal goals are meaningless, are reassuring. Everyone seems to be dedicated to a team victory.
Before the season begins it might be accurate to document what it might mean for Andy Reid. He’s been here for 13 years. These recent additions to the playing ranks and coaching staff had to be inspired by the head coach. And if all this potential is not realized, I have to feel that Reid’s charmed life in Philadelphia might change. He has made too many moves, too many changes, very expensive switches that will probably amount to something in the area of $200 million to have it all swept under the rug. The payroll has been increased, some of his coaches have been brought out of retirement. The line-ups, offensively and defensively, have undergone so many alterations. So there has to be a significant pay-off somewhere down the line.
If the comment of safety man Nate Allen can be taken at face value, then the Eagles’ overall feeling is right on the money. Allen’s starting job is still undecided. He’s returning from an injury and this week said, “ I’m not concerned about who starts. We are just going to play and at the end of the day it’s all about winning.” That seems to be the feeling all through the locker room. There seem to be just 2 undecided items. Plans do not seem to be hanging on bringing in another linebacker, which still seems to be a need in many opinions. Nor do they seem to focus upon an extension of DeSean Jackson’s contract, which could be resolved at any conceivable final moment. The latest addition to the squad is Kyle DeVan for pass protection, just in case the Eagles’ present plans to fulfill that position don’t materialize.
DeVan played for Coach Howard Mudd at Indianapolis in 2009, beating out a second-round pick for the right guard job. He comes to the Eagles a day after cut-down day and the Birds didn’t even have a nameplate for him in the locker room. Rest assured, if he does his job and helps others do theirs, they’ll find one very quickly.
Overall there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 players who were not here last year. While winning it all this year is the immediate goal, the Eagles did mange to include enough youth on this squad to indicate that the long-term has, at least, been considered. But make no mistake, the future is now. Another way of saying this is that this Eagles team will go as far as quarterback Michael Vick will take them.
This past sports weekend was hardly one to remember but a few interesting things did happen. First of all, the college football season began, but hardly in the fashion that Notre Dame expected. The Irish were upset by South Florida, 23-20, with South Florida scoring an early touchdown on a 96 yard return of a fumble. The most interesting feature of this game was that the South Florida coach is Skip Holtz, a former Notre Damer whose father, Lou Holtz, once coached at Notre Dame and led the Irish to their last national championship in 1988. The fumble recovery by a kid named Kayvon Webster took all the starch out of Notre Dame early and the Irish never recovered. They drove to the South Florida one yard line early but then proceeded to register two fumbles, committed a holding penalty and threw
an interception. South Florida kicked 3 field goals and led at halftime, 16-0. The game was played at Notre Dame and was bedeviled by storms and lightning so bad that the authorities asked fans to evacuate the stadium and kept teams inside their locker rooms for over 2 hours. It took almost 6 hours to complete the game. So in the Midwest, the college football weekend turned out to be one to remember.
Closer to home, almost 100,000 spectators turned out on a warm but pleasant day to watch the Nittany Lions of Penn State romp over Indiana State, 41-7, in Penn State’s annual cupcake opener. Once again, Joe Paterno failed to make any important decisions on his quarterback. He half-promised a decision on naming his quarterback for the season but sophomore Rob Bolden and red-shirt junior, Matt McGloin, wound up splitting time and sharing the job while Paterno wound up coaching from the press box, out of harm’s way, rather than from the sidelines. But Alabama is coming to Penn State this coming weekend and, hopefully, some decisive moves will be reached by then. The Lions also had a bad opening day on kick-off coverage and place kicks, including missing an extra point. Paterno said that Anthony Fera, who was unavailable last Saturday due to some off-field issues, also unannounced, will be back “either this week or next week”. Joe couldn’t even be sure about that. You can be sure there will be a big crowd on hand for Alabama.
The baseball note of the week was supplied by Phillies pitcher, David Herndon, who threw 3 home run balls in 1 inning to the Florida Marlins last Saturday night: a change-up, a sinker, and another change. And his personal 13 inning scoreless streak became history. But that’s not what made it worth talking about.
Herndon entered Saturday’s game with 2 runners already on base. Antonio Bastardo had started the inning pitching on his third straight day, coming on in the eighth inning after 7 solid frames by Cole Hamels. Bastardo threw 13 pitches. Eight were balls, resulting in 2 walks, with Bastardo working on signs of definite fatigue. So in came Herndon after manager Manuel and pitching coach Dubee became concerned Bastardo, realizing that there were just so many pitches in an arm. And Bastardo of late has been absolutely brilliant.
Herndon had yielded only 6 home runs all season in 44 2/3 innings. On Saturday it was 3 to 4 hitters – the last one hit by Greg Dobbs, a former Phil.
Then came Sunday. And to everyone’s amazement Herndon pitched again, and issuing 5 intentional walks plus an unintentional one that produced the Florida winning run. The game also featured the ejection of Charlie Manuel who was forced to watch the game in the locker room where even the TV set was broken. Charlie’s weekend in Florida became an utter disaster.