Aug 092010

August 9 Philadelphia Inquirer

Quintin Mikell’s off-season of clarity could be a lesson for wide receiver DeSean Jackson or for anyone that feels underpaid or underappreciated.

The Eagles safety, disgruntled about his contract last season, said he let the situation affect his performance on the field.

“I realized at the end of the day you can’t control none of that stuff,” Mikell said Sunday at training camp. “All we can control is what we put on the field, and I’ve come to peace with that. . . . It’s a hard lesson.”

It was a season of learning for Mikell, who said he tried too hard to fill the leadership shoes of the departed Brian Dawkins and tried too hard to impart wisdom to younger players such as Macho Harris. Despite earning a Pro Bowl nod as a third alternate, Mikell’s numbers last year were down across the board.

“Last year, there were a lot of contributing factors to that situation,” Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “[Mikell] persevered, and that’s the important thing. I think he’s better off for it.”

According to McDermott, Mikell is having one of the best camps of his eight-year career. It’s probably no coincidence that the defense – which also experienced growing pains last season – looks sharper than it did a year ago. Of course, Friday’s preseason opener against the Jaguars will be the first true gauge.

“We got a lot of speed, man, and a lot of confidence,” Mikell said. “Obviously, we’re going against the same offense all the time so there’s something to be said for that. But right now, I’m excited to see what we got on Friday.”

If Nate Allen maintains his hold on the free-safety spot by the season opener next month, it will be the second straight year that a rookie starts opposite Mikell. Harris, now at cornerback, was that guy a year ago. Mikell, an undrafted rookie, had to wait six years before he became a regular starter.

But he observed Dawkins and Michael Lewis, who was essentially his predecessor at strong safety, and learned from their successes and from their mistakes. Lewis, like Jackson now, felt that he had outperformed his rookie contract and let it be known, albeit mildly.

“At the end of the day [Lewis] still went and got paid, he still played for another team [currently the 49ers], he still made money and he’s doing fine,” Mikell said. “But it was just [in] his time here [that] he didn’t make the most of it.”

Mikell is in the final year of a four-year, $4 million deal he signed when he was primarily on special teams. When he got the starting job full-time in 2007 and had a very good 2008, he felt that an extension was in order.

It never came. He’d had a similar feeling once before when he wasn’t selected in the 2003 draft. A few days prior, McDermott had called Mikell.”

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