Aug 022010

August 2 Philadelphia Inquirer

DeSean Jackson and Stewart Bradley, two of the Eagles‘ most important players, sat out practice Sunday, and more Birds might join them on the training-camp sideline Monday.

That’s because running back Mike Bell, cornerback Asante Samuel, guard Max Jean-Gilles, and center A.Q. Shipley each left practice early with a range of injuries.

It was only the third day of full-team practices at Lehigh University. Six weeks remain before the Sept. 12 season opener.

Bell’s injury, at first glance, appeared to be the most serious: The hard-running No. 2 halfback pulled up while running in the open field and crumpled to the ground, grasping his left hamstring.

After a strong morning practice, Bell cursed when trainers had to cart him off the field.

Wide receiver Jackson was out with a back strain suffered in Saturday’s practice, according to the team. Bradley sat with a hamstring spasm in his right leg, the same side on which he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last year.

Bradley’s injury sounds mild, but it represents another speed bump in his attempt to return to the field and highlighted the Eagles‘ potentially precarious situation at middle linebacker.

The critical position lies in the hands of Bradley and Omar Gaither, two players who are trying to return from significant physical problems in 2009.

With those two hurt, the team cycled through six different starters in the middle last season, but the only insurance brought in for 2010 was Jamar Chaney, a seventh-round draft choice out of Mississippi State.

Instead of adding reinforcements, the Eagles are counting on Bradley to return as a physical force and leader. So far, though, he has been bothered by nagging injuries. He also missed June practices with a left calf injury.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott downplayed concern about Bradley, whom he has called the quarterback of his defense.

Head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder “feels good about it, Stew feels good about it, and so does [coach Andy Reid],” McDermott said. “We look to have him back very soon.”

Gaither filled in for Bradley on Sunday. The five-year veteran, who is coming back from a Lisfranc foot sprain that ended his 2009 season after five weeks, said he and Bradley will be fine.

Gaither noted that he has started at middle linebacker before, holding the top spot in all of 2007 and most of 2008.

“I’ve done it for an entire season, so when I go in, it’s just like it’s real seamless,” Gaither said.”

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