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Banged-up Eagles aim to avoid more injuries as preseason games begin

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- They lost their starting middle linebacker and promising rookie tight end for the season. The projected offensive line didn't take a snap together. Even the red jersey didn't protect the backup quarterback from being hurt.

The Philadelphia Eagles broke camp Wednesday with more question marks and fewer healthy bodies than when they arrived at Lehigh University two weeks ago with Super Bowl aspirations.

One might think the Eagles' main goal in Thursday night's preseason opener against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would be to avoid more injuries.


"Honestly, I don't think about all that," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "If you worry about that, then you're going to get banged up. I expect the guys to go in and play, and if you're playing cautious football, then that's normally when injuries take place. You have to go play the game. I don't get into all that. I don't think that way."

Reid plans to rotate his starters into the second quarter against the Patriots. Plenty of backups will see action with the first unit because of the injuries.

Six starters will sit out, including running back Brian Westbrook (ankle), right tackle Shawn Andrews (back), right guard Stacy Andrews (knee), left guard Todd Herremans (foot), defensive end Trent Cole (shoulder) and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley (knee). Quarterback Kevin Kolb (knee), tight ends Cornelius Ingram (knee) and Matt Schobel (calf), defensive end Victor Abiamiri (chest) and defensive tackle Trevor Laws (hamstring) are the injured backups.

"Thank goodness we have some players that we trust are good players," Reid said. "We'll see how they function here and see how the rest of preseason goes. But it is the preseason."

The most serious camp injuries were to Bradley and Ingram, who both tore anterior cruciate ligaments. Bradley, who called the defensive signals on the field, is a huge loss for a unit that won't have safety Brian Dawkins and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson for the first time this decade. Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency, and Johnson passed away last month after a battle with cancer.

Joe Mays, a sixth-round pick who played in two games as a rookie last year, has replaced Bradley. Former starter Omar Gaither backs him up.

"I think he's taken a workmanlike approach, and that's what we expected," new Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said of Mays. "He's improved every practice. He's not making the same mistake twice, and he has great command of the defense."

On the offensive side, chemistry could be a problem for the linemen. The Eagles revamped the unit during the offseason, bringing in two new starters and replacing longtime bookend tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. So far, left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Herremans, center Jamaal Jackson, right guard Stacy Andrews and right tackle Shawn Andrews haven't been on the field at the same time.

Jackson is the only one in the group who hasn't missed time in camp. Shawn Andrews, who is making the switch from guard, hasn't practiced.

Nick Cole will fill in for Herremans, who could miss the rest of the preseason with a foot injury. Max Jean-Gilles is replacing Stacy Andrews, who is sitting out the preseason opener as a precaution. Winston Justice takes Shawn Andrews' spot.

"You know how I am with the continuity of the offensive line; I think that's very important," Reid said. "It was good to get them out here for a couple of practices, with the exception of right tackle. So far, Winston has had a very good camp. I've always gone with what's out here, and we roll and we go play. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I wouldn't want them all out here practicing."

Injuries weren't the only distractions during camp. First-round draft pick Jeremy Maclin, a speedy wide receiver from Missouri, held out for nine days before signing a contract. Defensive end Juqua Parker was arrested for marijuana possession. The team still is mourning the loss of Johnson, a beloved coach and defensive mastermind.

The Eagles reached the NFC Championship Game last January, losing as a favorite at Arizona after two road playoff victories. The road back will get even tougher if the injuries keep piling up.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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