As lockout nears, Eagles step up backup plans

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Players recovering from injury, like Nate Allen, could not rehab at team facilities if a lockout occurs. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

The NFL season may be six months away, but if the league's owners lock out the players by Thursday at midnight the work stoppage will have an immediate impact for the Eagles and their players.

Almost all team operations would shut down, and there would be no contact permitted between management and the players. Andy Reid and his coaches couldn't talk to their players, and the players, in turn, would have no access to team facilities for rehabilitation and working out.

A number of the Eagles are recovering from significant surgeries and would have to find alternative means to continue their rehabs. Defensive end Brandon Graham and safety Nate Allen, for instance, suffered knee injuries late last season. Many injured players are expected to return to their colleges, where they will receive pro bono treatment.

"No disrespect to college medical staffs, but if I was an NFL trainer I would be nervous about sending one of my players there to rehab," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said.

A lockout would also prevent Eagles management, aside from the draft, from further shaping the roster. So there would be no free agent signings, trades, or in-team contract negotiations.

Mikell, for instance, will be an unrestricted free agent once a deal is in place. But as of the deadline, the team's longest-tenured position player will no longer be an Eagle. Or will he?

"I won't be under contract with the Eagles, but I won't be a free agent yet, either," Mikell said. "So it's a weird position to be in. But I think the four- or five-year free agents that don't know if they're restricted or unrestricted have it much worse than me."

The 30-year-old Mikell said that he was financially secure enough to withstand a long work stoppage. But there are a larger number of young players that aren't as economically stable as the veterans.

Rookie linebacker Jamar Chaney, who received a relatively modest contract as a seventh-round draft pick, said he knew of some players that are cash-strapped.

"But I'm OK," Chaney said. "I saved a lot of money during the season and have good people on my side. If a lockout goes into the season I don't know if I'd have to get a job. But I think I could get a job coaching. I have contacts."

Chaney has been in his native Florida for most of the offseason but had plans to return to Philadelphia for offseason workouts next week. Those plans will apparently be put on hold.

"I'm probably going to Mississippi State to work out until there's a deal," Chaney said, referring to his college.

Chaney ended last season as the Eagles' starting middle linebacker and is expected to be an integral part of next season's defense under new coordinator Juan Castillo. The 24-year-old said that he spoke with new linebackers coach Mike Caldwell on Wednesday and had been in contact with Castillo "at least once a week" over the last month.

If the owners and the players can't come to an agreement by midnight or choose not to extend the deadline, a lockout is likely, and those conversations will cease. There are also unanswered questions about what happens to the coaches and the team's administrative employees until there is a new collective bargaining agreement.

Team president Joe Banner, who was in Washington with owner Jeffrey Lurie for Wednesday's negotiations, said last month that the Eagles would be able to retain their coaches for an extended period.

"We want what the fans want - football," said Mikell, who reiterated that he would like to remain with the Eagles. "Let's figure out how to split all this money and get back to playing football."

 


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane.