Aug 032010

August 3 Philadelphia Daily News

“When the Eagles hired Bobby April as their special-teams coordinator, they made an investment.

April is the NFL’s most prominent special-teams “name.” You don’t bring him in – he doesn’t agree to come – unless there is going to be a practice emphasis on special teams, and a roster emphasis on backups who have elite special-teams skills.

You can see that extra time being logged right now at Lehigh, and you can also see guys suddenly appearing on the scene, such as wideout Kelley Washington and recycled linebacker Tracy White, who are primarily special-teams stars.

Under Andy Reid, the Eagles have always professed a great commitment to special teams, but there have been times when that wasn’t as true as they wanted it to be. Everybody remembers Rory Segrest as a first-year coordinator, and the 2007 opener at Green Bay the Birds lost because they thought they could turn anybody into a returner. Less notorious is the 2002 axing of special-teams ace Rod Smart in the final cutdown to protect Quinton Caver, a second-round linebacker the year before who flat-out couldn’t play, on special teams or anywhere else. Finally, after several really bad games, the team cut Caver and brought in a special teams-savvy linebacker, Keith Adams, just in time to keep then-coordinator John Harbaugh from slitting his wrists.

Watching April, 57, hustle around the field, issuing commands and compliments – “That’s the way to do it, Quintin Demps! No wonder you’re a legend with the [UTEP] Miners!” – you get the sense it really won’t be like that this year.

Yesterday, when asked about his pull, April gave the smart answer for any subordinate, particularly one who recently came aboard.

“Well, I would like to think that my opinion matters a lot,” April said. “[But] I was told something a long time ago by my high school coach. He said that if you go into coaching, you will be a great assistant coach if you can always look through the eyes of the head coach. And that will make you a better head coach when you’re a head coach. I’ve always tried to do that. I’m not saying I’ve always succeeded, but I know that sometimes you lose a guy because maybe it’s just better for the overall organization. It might hurt your particular area, and sometimes that happens, because there is only so many ways you can slice up that pie . . . Certainly, I’d like to keep the best special-teams players, and I voice my opinion in keeping them, but in reality, if I can look through the eyes of the head coach, and if we’re the No. 1 special teams in the league and we don’t go to the playoffs, that’s not necessarily good for Andy Reid. So, whatever we have to do.”

Last year, under Ted Daisher, the Eagles were very good at returning punts, because of DeSean Jackson, and pretty good at returning kicks until Ellis Hobbs went down with a neck injury Nov. 8. Covering kickoffs was a yearlong adventure, often accompanied by a yellow penalty flag. The Birds’ “teams” units were really young, and they made young mistakes.”

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