BETHLEHEM --- Brent Celek left practice early Thursday with what the Eagles described as a "mild" right knee sprain. Celek later walked briskly to the parking lot, waving off reporters' concerns with "I'll be good. I promise." He was wearing a wrapping on his right leg.
Just a day earlier, the Eagles seemed to be done with their tight end flirtation. Visanthe Shiancoe had signed with the Patriots, and the Eagles hadn't opted to bring in Jeremy Shockey for a physical, after reports said they might. Does this change anything? There's no reason to think Celek will miss any game time, but even if he misses a week or two of Lehigh workouts, that's a lot of reps for the backup group led by Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett and Chase Ford. At the very least, these guys will get a better basis for evaluation. If they don't look so hot, THEN we could see Shockey or somebody.
A source close to the situation said Thursday there is "mutual" interest between Shockey and the Eagles, but nothing is close to happening now.
There's always competition. I'll be surprised when there's not," Harbor told reporters Thursday, after the first full-squad workout of training camp, which was closed to the public. "Another guy or two added into the mix just makes it better. As players, you see the competition, you see what other guys do, you welcome them and you just push each other ... It helps you grow as a player. You do things right, if things don't work out with a certain team, yo're a good player, you'll wind up somewhere else."
Harbor was OK last season as Celek's second-year backup. It's probably fair to say he didn't make the leap forward the organization had hoped to see. It's also probably fair to say the NFL lockout kept that leap from happening for a lot of 2010 rookies, who didn't get the time in the facilities, going over their rookie game tape, that a second-year player normally gets.
"I felt like I played pretty well,' Harbor said. 'I probably had about 15 balls thrown to me all year." He caught 13, so that would be an amazing rate, if it were true. "I do need to improve, show the coaches I can do more things, gain their trust a little more, maybe be a little bigger part of the offense. It's hard to get on the field when you have three great wide receivers like DeSean [Jackson], Jeremy [Maclin] and Jason Avant."