As the countdown continues to this year's training camp at Lehigh, the Daily News and Eagletarian have gone back to look at some of our favorite or most interesting events and storylines of training camps and the preseason during the Andy Reid Era. Each weekday for the next two weeks, we will count them down, leading to No. 1.
No. 8: LINC DEBUT
AND THEY JUST MOVED IN
Published: Aug. 23, 2003
By Les Bowen, Daily News Sports Writer
AS EAGLES CHAIRMAN Jeffrey Lurie noted beforehand, this was but a "precursor" to the real, official opening game for Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 8.
At times, last evening certainly seemed cursed, if not precursed, as the Eagles played poorly in virtually every phase while suffering a 24-12 exhibition setback to the New England Patriots. And the Eagles managed to get really banged-up on their new playing surface, to boot.
The Eagles' casualties began with the pregame warmup, when center-guard Scott Peters reinjured his right ankle and was scratched from the lineup. They continued at almost as steady a pace as the yellow flags, as coach Andy Reid spent much of the evening standing on his new grass surface, gazing down at this or that afflicted Eagle.
In all, it was not a memorable dress rehearsal, for a team that looked much better in winning its first two preseason games on the road. This next-to-last exhibition is the one where your starters traditionally try to put their best foot forward. The Eagles got their best foot stepped on by an aggressive New England team, and came away limping.
"It's a beautiful stadium and a beautiful surface. It was a lot more beautiful than how we played," Reid said.
How bad was it? The high point for the Birds was a lovely 66-yard fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown by former practice-squad defensive end Ivory McCoy. McCoy, a one-time Michigan State tight end who probably has a decent chance to make the roster. That's because fourth-round rookie defensive end Jamaal Green broke his right fibula last night.
Green, the Camden native who had looked good in his first camp, will undergo surgery today, a source close to the situation said.
This time, when Reid started listing the injuries in his postgame address, reporters filled several notebook pages.
"I think we're going to get some of these guys back," said Reid, who acknowledged he will not know whether starting wide receiver James Thrash will be sidelined very long until Thrash undergoes an MRI exam today. Thrash has a concussion and a neck strain, Reid said.
Thrash's injury looked the scariest. The reliable veteran lay on the turf about 10 minutes before he was rolled away on a stretcher, his neck immobilized. Thrash missed a catch, was flipped by the Pats' Ty Law, and landed awkwardly. X-rays were negative.
In addition to Peters, Green, McCoy and Thrash, linebacker Carlos Emmons suffered a high ankle sprain (though Emmons said afterward he thought he was OK); defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis suffered a concussion and a neck strain; offensive line hopeful Damian Levergne injured his left anterior cruciate ligament; and long-snapper Mike Bartrum strained a hamstring.
"You have these nights sometimes," Emmons said. "Exhibition or not, you always want to play better than we did. But we've got time to iron things out. "
"This was a good test for us against a good football team," Reid said. "When you don't take care of the ball on third down, offensively and defensively, you don't get youself off the field [on defense] and you don't continue drives [on offense]. You have penalties and special teams struggle - it's tough to compete against a good football team. These are the things we'll go back to the drawing board and we'll get answered. It was a good test today. We didn't rise up and do the things we needed to do. "
It was a particularly poor outing for 2002 first-round pick Lito Sheppard, who is trying to win at least a chunk of the return job from injured running back Brian Westbrook. Sheppard didn't help his cause when he muffed the fair catch of a punt, giving New England the ball at the Eagles' 14, leading to a 27-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal.
Later in the first half, Sheppard, playing cornerback, missed a tackle that would have stopped David Patten from scoring New England's second touchdown. In the second half, he was beaten for a 37-yard reception by Dedric Ward.
The evening got off to a jittery start for both teams, but it really started to go downhill for the Eagles when Donovan McNabb ended a promising, seven-play drive by fumbling the ball away at the Patriots' 30. The Pats then embarked on their first TD drive, aided by a 38-yard Troy Vincent pass-interference penalty.
By halftime, the Birds were down, 17-3, and had amassed 78 yards in penalties.
McCoy's touchdown was their only one, the unofficial first Eagles touchdown at the Linc.
"It was a double screen. It was like the third time the guy [quarterback Damon Huard] ran it. Tthe first couple times, I just barely missed batting it down," McCoy said afterward. "The third time, he threw it directly at my face mask. By the grace of God, it just came my way. "
Green's broken fibula could mean the difference between the roster and more practice squad time for McCoy, especially if Green goes on injured reserve for the season.
Eagles first-round draft pick Jerome McDougle, Green's college teammate at Miami, said players on the field when Green went down "said they heard it pop."
"He's kind of down," McDougle said. "But that's part of the business. A lot of guys went down tonight." *