BETHLEHEM -- Unless the Eagles have totally misjudged Brian Westbrook and Lito Sheppard, who are unhappy with their contracts, they expect the difference-makers to report to training camp on time later this week and conduct themselves professionally.
There are better ways to start camp, however, and Eagles head coach Andy Reid tried hard to make the point Monday while swatting away tiny black bugs in 93-degree heat at the Lehigh University practice fields.
On the day Donovan McNabb and his suspect throwing shoulder showed up ready for work, the afternoon Trevor Laws became the last rookie draft pick to agree to contract terms and local product Shaheer McBride of Chester discovered what almost everyone who makes the trip up the turnpike realizes -- i.e. you don't want to get lost around here -- the talk was about who wasn't around; and whether they would be.
Reid said he would try to convey his thoughts individually to both Westbrook and Sheppard, who are vital to team success this year.
Exactly how Reid convinces Westbrook everything will be alright contractually is the toughest job of all, for the Pro Bowl running back expressed his growing discontent with a pact he felt he'd outperformed all the way back at minicamp. Westbrook has three years left on the five-year $25 million extension he inked in 2005.
"We've always done a good job on those things so I'm not worried about that," Reid said. "We've always been very fair and understanding to players that we have approached about contracts. But other than that I'm not going to get into it. That's not our policy."
Sheppard won't be a quick-sell either, for he's still on the shelves after being shopped around the NFL much of the offseason.
Sheppard expressed his feelings about the Eagles' program skipping the voluntary camps he previously attended.
For now, Reid says he's not worried about the Rosenhaus influence although, on the other hand, what would you expect a coach to say?
"Lito seems to be in a good place right now and Drew seems to be in a good place about the situation so I think Lito will come in here and have a great year," Reid said.
For Sheppard, that year will begin with a competition at cornerback. He and Sheldon Brown, his close friend and locker mate, will be battling for a starting job because the only way the Eagles don't start Asante Samuel, their marquee free agent edition, is if the ex-Patriot doesn't stay healthy. Samuel is coming off a mild hamstring strain.
"They're all competing but Lito will have an opportunity to start just like the other guys do," Reid said. "And whoever the best guys are, they're going to play. That's how I look at it."
While there's no doubt Westbrook will play, the big question is whether he will be paid. He has
three years left on a five-year $25 million extension he signed in 2005. Sources say the Eagles have offered him a significant raise for the final three years. It appears Westbrook is frustrated with the ceiling on the restructure, the latter due to Collective Bargaining Agreement rules.
As much as the Eagles spin themselves as the franchise that offers fair market value, it's going to take a great piece of salesmanship to soothe Westbrook. The animosity between the sides dates back to 2005 when Westbrook held out of training camp, publicly ripped the team for not re-doing his deal and more recently, banked a $3 million Eagles' bank error in his favor.
The Eagles probably don't want to alienate Westbrook, arguably their best player these days.
"I think the name speaks for itself," Eagles veteran quarterback A.J. Feeley said. "He's our go-to guy. He as a guy that can do anything. He can run and catch it and return kicks and punts. He's vital and it's imperative that we have him this year and he's happy."