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Camp Over, And Now Game Tests Begin

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- When the last player you interview at an Eagles training camp is Adam DiMichele, you know things have gone a little haywire. No question about it, the Eagles took some lumps in the 2009 Training Camp, and they left on Wednesday morning and scurried down the Northeast Extension for the cozy confines of Lincoln Financial Field and the start of the preseason schedule.

Of course, it was fitting that prior to leaving head coach Andy Reid slipped in the mention that left guard Todd Herremans wouldn't play against New England and could, in fact, miss the entire preseason schedule with what he termed a "stress reaction in a bone in his foot just above the arch." Later asked about the injury, Reid made sure that everyone was clear that the injury isn't a stress fracture and compared it more to a bone bruise than anything else and that, well, in the end, Herremans has a sore foot and isn't playing on Thursday and may not play in a game until the Eagles travel to Carolina to play the Panthers on September 13.

Fitting, huh? The Eagles have some injuries to deal with, and the games are just now coming. You may want to consider head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and his staff for the Most Valuable Eagles award as they put the pieces together in time for the Eagles to play Carolina.

In the big picture, that is what is important. The Eagles need to be as whole as possible for Carolina. They will have Brian Westbrook back on the field before then. Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws, too. Shawn Andrews, we hope. The big man is jogging now, said Reid, and everyone is encouraged by his progress. But backs are a tricky thing and, hey, we've been down this "hopeful" road with Andrews before. All we can do is wait and see where he is next week, and the week after, and on September 9, the Wednesday before the game against the Panthers when the Eagles turn their full 53-man attention toward the regular season.

Until then, we'll look at the preseason games as a chance to evaluate talent. Winning is nice, but how the individuals fare is more important. In the opener against New England, we have a chance to see if rookie running back Shady McCoy is as good as he was in camp, and we can witness the New Winston Justice and determine if he can carry over the momentum gained from a strong spring and an encouraging training camp. The offensive line is about Justice, and left tackle Jason Peters and center Jamaal Jackson and backup guards Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles.

And we can see No. 1 draft pick Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver and in the punt return game, and we can evaluate a healthy Reggie Brown and what he might mean to the offense.

Defensively, all eyes are on middle linebacker Joe Mays and free safety Quintin Demps. Are they ready to start? And what about Bryan Smith at left end, and Ellis Hobbs at cornerback and Sean Jones at strong safety?

Once the starters depart in the second quarter, the kids take over. And the execution invariably suffers. The coaches take these games very seriously. They have been coaching the roster, top to bottom, since the spring. They want to see precision, just as they saw it in the endless stream of practices first at the NovaCare Complex and then at Lehigh.

On most fans' minds now are the injuries. So, so many injuries. Two players, middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and tight end Cornelius Ingram, are gone for the season with knee injuries. The rest of these injuries are expected to heal in time for players to get on the field for the Panthers. In the big picture, what the Eagles are going through is not different at all from what most teams endure at this time of the year.

As the Eagles left Lehigh, they did not moan about the injuries. They did not wallow in the disappointment of players missing the season. They ventured forth knowing that Thursday brings about a new opportunity. So it is here, finally. The preseason has arrived.

Here is to hoping the Eagles start things out fast against New England and that they finish strong, and that DiMichele can still be a story at some point during the game. It is time for some football against players in other uniforms, something we have all waited for so patiently since January.

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