Sheppard Hoping For Early Return

As much as the Eagles could use help in the secondary, they're being cautious with bringing back Lito Sheppard, who was injured in the season opener.

Andy Reid reiterated Tuesday that there's a chance cornerback Lito Sheppard could be back for Monday night's game against the Green Bay Packers.

Sheppard suffered what Reid had termed "a fairly significant" ankle sprain in the Eagles' season-opener against Houston and has missed the last two games, including Sunday's 38-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers. But Reid said he is hopeful the Pro Bowl corner will be able to practice Thursday when the team begins preparations for the Packers game.

"He'll have a chance to practice this week and we'll see where he is at," Reid said. "It just looks like he can do most of the things that he is going to need to do to play. He wants to get back out there. We'll see what he can do. Until he is out there doing it, I am not going to give you anything until I see him with the pads on."

The Eagles' defense certainly could use Sheppard back, particularly since his replacement, Rod Hood, aggravated a heel injury Sunday that he initially hurt in Week Two against the Giants.

In their first three games (Sheppard injured his ankle on the first series against Houston) without Sheppard, the Eagles have given up five touchdown passes and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.5 percent of their passes against them.

Hood was listed as doubtful all last week and wasn't expected to play against the 49'ers, but started and played most of the game until he aggravated the heel injury in the four quarter.

"Rod really gave us everything he had out there and was limited," said Reid. "But he went out and played his heart out."

Reid said he decided to start Hood after the Eagles trainers assured him that the cornerback couldn't injure the heel any worse. But now, he's back to square one, with red-hot Brett Favre up this week and the Dallas Cowboys next week.

If neither Sheppard nor Hood can play this week, Joselio Hanson, who played in NFL Europe last spring, would start opposite Sheldon Brown. Dexter Wynn would be the team's third corner.

Hanson saw action starting in Week Two against the Giants and was continually exploited by Giants' quarterback Eli Manning. Wynn didn't start the season with the team, but was signed when Sheppard went down in Week One.

In the first half Sunday, the Eagles held the 49'ers to five first downs and 110 offensive yards. But for the second straight week, the defense got roughed up badly in the second half. In the final two quarters, the Niners scored 21 points and notched 18 first downs and 282 offensive yards.

The loss of Brian Dawkins with a concussion didn't help the beleaguered secondary, but Dawkins believes it's just a matter of the defense responding.

"I believe we're going to have a lot of games where we are going to have to learn how to play with the lead the way the offense is doing things," Dawkins said. "Eventually, we will learn how to finish and finish with excellence."

In other injury news...

  • WR Donte Stallworth was feeling better Monday after suffering hamstring spasms that caused him to be a game day scratch on Sunday.
  • RB Brian Westbrook probably won't practice much, if at all, this week as he nurses a sore knee. Westbrook had just 12 touches Sunday, but still racked up 164 rushing and receiving yards.
  • TE L.J. Smith continues to be bothered by AC sprain in his shoulder. He played with it Sunday, but had problems lifting his arm.

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