Pederson may lighten load for Eagles’ stars, vets in OTAs

Pederson may lighten load for Eagles’ stars, vets in OTAs

After an offseason shortened by an improbable Super Bowl run, and with so many players rehabbing injuries, Eagles coach Doug Pederson may decide to lighten the load on stars and veterans at OTAs.

The Eagles are scheduled to hold their first full-team practices of the offseason when phase three of OTAs begins next week, though the workouts will be “full-team” in name only. A number of players will be limited or held out entirely, many while working their way back from injuries, other possibly to limit fatigue.

During last Friday’s media availability, Pederson seemed to allude to a plan to ease certain players back into action on several occasions.

“It’s my job to protect them a little bit through this offseason,” said Pederson. “Obviously, we're not playing a game right now. So, it's my job to make sure that these guys are getting the work they need, but at the same time, getting them more prepared for training camp.”

It will be interesting to see who’s even ready to take the field for the Eagles once practices are underway. Carson Wentz, Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos sustained season-ending injuries in 2017, while Alshon Jeffery, Derek Barnett and Tim Jernigan underwent offseason surgeries.

Naturally, there’s no need to rush anybody back in May, particularly established veterans. The Eagles also may have constructed their roster in preparation of some of these absences well.

For example, signed by the Eagles two weeks ago, Markus Wheaton can provide an experienced presence on the practice field at wide receiver while Jeffery rehabs from shoulder surgery.

“It goes back to me kind of protecting some of the starters a little bit,” said Pederson. “Some of the guys, as we know, Alshon and his situation currently, and so having depth at that position helps us down the road.”

The Eagles aren’t necessarily focused solely on bringing rehabbing players along slowly, however. Pederson explicitly stated Jay Ajayi might be somebody who stands to benefit from fewer reps at OTAs.

“Jay is a guy that, going forward, I want to make sure that he's 100 percent and he's ready for the regular season and all those types of things down the road,” said Pederson.

Ajayi does have a chronic knee condition the Eagles have monitored since acquiring the running back in a trade last season, yet is by some definition healthy. That is to say if the NFL schedule did begin in May, he would be in uniform.

Ajayi’s might be a special case. Then again, it might not. Pederson chose to rest players with nagging injuries early and often in ‘17. Both Jeffery and Nick Foles routinely sat out of practices during training camp, and were always available whenever the Eagles truly needed them.

Could Pederson use maintenance days with more frequency in 2018, perhaps even extend the practice to players who are generally be considered healthy? It's not out of the question, and might be wise.

“It was a short offseason, as you guys know, and short for all of players and coaches, but obviously I'll take that any day,” said Pederson.

Of course the Eagles will take rings over the extra five weeks of rest and relaxation the majority of the NFL gets. But in terms of the team’s upcoming bid to repeat, Pederson would do well to weigh the potential negative consequences of fatigue versus the benefits of an occasion rest day for an established player.

It also sounds as if Pederson has already given it some serious thought, and as is often the case these days, might be ahead of the curve.

Bryce Harper meets some Philly sports legends at the Sixers game

Bryce Harper meets some Philly sports legends at the Sixers game

The new big man in town, Bryce Harper, went to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night to take in the Sixers game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He rubbed shoulders with some of the previous biggest (little) men in town.

Harper was in attendance and rang the bell prior to tip-off — something he'll surely do many times during Phillies games across the street this summer.

When Harper made his way to his seat in a suite, he was seated alongside Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Rhys Hoskins was also in the suite as were all of the aforementioned players' significant others. Talk about some serious Philly sports firepower right there.

And then later in the game, the Sixers shared an image of a couple of legendary No. 3s meeting in the bowels of the Center. I'd love to hear the conversation between Allen Iverson and Harper.

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was also in the building, sitting a bit closer to the court. Rapper Meek Mill was also in the building and took a photo with A.I. Which got me wondering: What's the perfect storm of Philly sports stardom in a Rat Pack sort of way? Obviously you had Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the court last night. In terms of the Flyers, aside from Gritty, you'd have to go Claude Giroux or maybe a fun-loving guy like Scott Hartnell from years past? Recently retired players that could fit the bill from other teams would have to include Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and maybe Pat Burrell just for fun. Is anyone in recent Eagles memory a bigger name than Brian Dawkins? He'd fill the fedora quotient. Nick Foles could be fun in a clean and wholesome sort of way.

My Philly sports Rat Pack would consist of A.I., Simmons, Embiid, Kendall Jenner, Wentz, Jason Kelce and Gritty. We got a good portion of that in the building last night.

Who is in your Philly sports Rat Pack?

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Nationals fans don’t get to be mad at Bryce Harper

Nationals fans don’t get to be mad at Bryce Harper

They can boo him. They can even hate him. But there’s absolutely no way Washington Nationals fans can fault Bryce Harper.

Sportswriters instructed Nats fans not to show up to the stadium unless they plan to boo Harper. Metro TV personalities smashed a pinata with the six-time All-Star’s photograph. Fans destroyed their No. 34 jerseys and showed up to the ballpark with signs that read “traitor.” The mayor of Washington D.C. took to social media to compare a baseball player to Benedict Arnold.

And yet, on Monday it was revealed in The Washington Post that the Nationals didn't just offer Harper less money and fewer years than the Phillies. The structure of the 10-year, $300 million contract proposed in September would’ve deferred payment on $100 million – 33 percent of the total value – until 2052. Then, in January, the club followed up with an even worse deal: 12 years, $250 million that wouldn’t be fully paid until the year 2072.

Harper would be 79 in 2072, assuming he lived that long.

There’s loyalty and hometown discounts. Then there’s situations that just don’t make sense.

Now seems like a good time to point out the Nationals are owned by Ted Lerner, whose own net worth is estimated to be in the multi billions. The team has done pretty well for itself at the gate, finishing 11th in Major League Baseball in average attendance in 2018 despite some of the highest ticket prices in the game. And while the TV contract is in dispute, the organization will eventually claim hundreds of millions of dollars in right fees dating back to 2012.

The money was there. Even without Harper, the Nationals have the seventh-largest payroll in baseball this season – never mind management’s inability to construct a winning team with that checkbook.

Why is this coming back on the player?

It’s one thing for fans to suggest a professional athlete should consider taking less money. It’s quite another to argue the athlete should sign a contract where a sizable portion of the cash might be paid when he’s living in a nursing home.

On some level, this is all reminiscent of when Jayson Werth pulled a reverse-Harper and left the Phillies to sign with the NL East rival Nationals in in 2011. The Phillies chose to allocate finances in such a way the club decided it would only retain Werth for below-market value, so he left. Fans weren’t happy, and he was booed every time he came to town.

But Werth wasn’t a generational talent. He was a cog, people ultimately understood he got a better deal, plus letting him go meant the Phillies could re-sign Cliff Lee, for example.

The Nationals let the face of baseball leave D.C. without a serious offer, and all they got was the money to sign Patrick Corbin.

Hey, it happens, and Nats fans should boo Harper for all 13 years in red pinstripes, the same as any Philly fan would in their shoes.

Just don’t cry Harper is a traitor. He’s in a Phils uniform because the Nationals screwed up, and the only place fingers need to be pointed is directly at the front office.

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