NFC East Roundup

Eagles ticked off, Shockey visits (but leaves) and Parcells re-evaluates.

DALLAS COWBOYS
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HOT TOPIC

Just for the record, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said he never ever had any intention on quitting following the 2004 season.

Was he down in the dumps after finishing a disappointing 6-10 one year after taking his team to the playoffs with a 10-6 record?

Yes.

Was he frustrated with how his team responded to him last season?

Yes.

But quitting with two years left on his contract was not an option.

"You get a little down and out once in a while, but I didn't think about quitting," Parcells said. "I just wouldn't do it."

Despite all of his success, Parcells said he is motivated by a fear of failure.

Suffice it to say, the Cowboys have given him a lot of motivation for 2005.

Parcells has never had back to back losing seasons and he has turned this team over in the offseason trying to prevent that from happening.

Parcells has made wholesale changes on the coaching staff, the scouting department and the roster with at least six high-profile free agent signings -- quarterback Drew Bledsoe, running back Anthony Thomas, defensive tackle Jason Ferguson, cornerback Anthony Henry, guard Marco Rivera and cornerback Aaron Glenn.

Combine that with the strong draft and Parcells believes the Cowboys can have a turnaround season in 2005.

"It's just you have to try to do all you can do to win all the time, and that's a lesson I learned a long time ago. I really tried to go back and re-evaluate myself, the plan, the program," Parcells said. "There was a lot of uncertainty here in the off-season. There were so many things I wanted to try to fix, I didn't know how things were going to fall out.

"But Jerry and I talked a long time about our approach to free agency. Stephen (Jones), Jerry and I were talking about that from the end of the season, here's the plan, here's what we kind of want to try to do and let's really try to get this done. I take my hat off to him now. He really stayed with us on that."

Jones is so optimistic about Parcells' attitude and commitment that he went on national radio last week and predicted that Parcells would stay with the Cowboys past his contract expiring in 2006.

Of course, that could change if the Cowboys don't get on a winning track.

NOTES

--Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said 307-pound defensive end Marcus Spears needs to lose about 10 pounds. After initially calling him Chubby Checker, Parcells has officially given Spears the nickname "Fats Domino."

--Rookie defensive end Chris Canty didn't do much at last week's rookie minicamp.

Canty, the Cowboys' fourth-round pick out of Virginia who suffered a detached retina in his left eye in January, is hopeful he will be ready for training camp in July in California.

"It's very frustrating," Canty said. "To have something like that happen, you just have to deal with the reality of it. You can't get bogged down in it. You have to move on."

Canty (6-feet-7, 280 pounds) needs more surgery on his eye and said he is expected to undergo a LASIK procedure this month.

Owner Jerry Jones said Canty's vision is good enough to play, but he is being held out of rigid exercise while the eye heals and his knee rehabilitation continues.

Canty missed the Cavaliers' final seven games last season after having knee surgery.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Cowboys improved their depth at running back by signing free agent Anthony Thomas to a one-year deal. Terms were undisclosed.

"A lot of teams had a lot of good things to offer, but I really liked this opportunity," Thomas said. "The O-line looks strong and healthy. I like the quarterback. (The Cowboys) are on the way up."

Thomas, a former Michigan standout known as the "A-Train," was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 after rushing for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns with the Bears.

But, last season, Thomas lost the starting job to Jones, the older brother of Cowboys starting running back Julius Jones. Thomas (6-feet-2, 225 pounds) rushed for a career-low 404 yards and two touchdowns. He is strong in short-yardage situations and has been a featured back.

"Anthony will provide an excellent complement to the other backs we have on the roster," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

--Restricted free-agent offensive tackle Kurt Vollers has signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys for $656,000.

He started the final three games last season at right tackle when Torrin Tucker was benched. Vollers, who can play both tackle spots, was pressed into action in 2003 when right tackle Ryan Young struggled with injuries. He started eight games that season.

He will go into 2005 as a candidate to start again at right tackle, though the Cowboys would like the versatility he brings in being able to sub at both sides as the third tackle.

Vollers' signing leaves quarterback Tony Romo as the only unsigned restricted free agent.

NEW YORK GIANTS
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HOT TOPIC

The Giants held their first of two minicamps, this one relegated to drafted and undrafted rookies with a few select first-year players mixed in.

When the first session of the season was over, head coach Tom Coughlin stood on the practice field, in blustery, cold weather, and conducted his first official press conference.

Predictably, he was true to form.

"I was looking to see who can handle it," he said, "who can handle all of the information that they got in their meetings this morning and come out on the field and put it into play. Who has the poise, who listens well, who takes instruction well. All of that stuff is important."

Perhaps disappointed that he didn't see enough, Coughlin shrugged off a question dealing with any surprises. "I don't think so," he said. "Not yet. I had a good feeling for our drafted guys (or they would not have been drafted, one assumes) and I had a good feeling for a lot of the college free agents. I think this is an excited group."

The psychology began immediately. "I read them some statistics last night," Coughlin said. "I told them that 56 college free agents made rosters in early September last year, so there is a great opportunity for these kids. They just have to realize it."

Coughlin's signature is in every move the Giants made this off-season. He said he needed a wide receiver to better utilize the burgeoning skills of young QB Eli Manning, and the UFA Plaxico Burress was signed. He indicated that the O-line depth was not conducive to finding a starting RT and the UFA Kareem McKenzie was signed.

Similarly, he expressed dissatisfaction with the MLB position and the UFA Antonio Pierce was signed.

The one thing he could not change was the absence of star TE Jeremy Shockey from the team's off-season conditioning and workout program, which began March 21. Shockey decided to remain in Coral Gables, Fla., and work out with a gaggle of former Hurricane stars which has become an annual tradition for them.

But he did come up to New Jersey for a two-day "visit," and Coughlin said that while they spoke, "that is between Jeremy and I. He is in good shape, he looks good. His weight is right there. He is as strong as he has ever been. He feels good. So there are all really good things. Did I express a desire for him to come back? Of course I did. Absolutely. He should be with his teammates. This is the time of the year when it is important for all the players to be here."

Maybe so, coach. But not Shockey, who doesn't just march to the tune of a different drummer but an entire rock band.

NOTES

--TE Jeremy Shockey is working out at Coral Gables with a few noteworthy Miami products, such as Redskins RB Clinton Portis, Jets MLB Jonathan Vilma, Colts WR Reggie Wayne, Ravens FS Ed Reed and Redskins SS Sean Taylor. "We work hard and we don't pay attention to each other's press notices or contracts," Shockey said. "I'm in great shape."

Justin Tuck, the Giants' third round pick and a DE from Notre Dame, was predicted to be a much higher selection and even the Giants said they had penciled him in for the second round when CB Corey Webster of LSU suddenly dropped and was available. "The Giants did what they had to do," Tuck said. "I will prove that I belong in this league."

Coughlin explained that Tuck would have been a second round pick -- "maybe even a first round," he added -- except for his injury-marred senior season. "As a junior he was right there," he said. "He could have been a first round pick."

The 6-5, 260-pound Tuck expressed thanks that he can learn from a Pro Bowl DE like Michael Strahan. "Whatever Strahan says and wherever he moves," he said, "I'll be right behind him."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Giants are not counting on recently signed UFA Jim Miller as their backup QB behind young Eli Manning. He underwent arthroscopic hip surgery and is likely to miss the full season.

"We aren't sure what we're going to do," said coach Tom Coughlin, "but we have a couple of young guys in camp this week (Jared Lorenzen and Matt Lovecchio) and they are going to get a lot of reps."

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
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HOT TOPIC

The Eagles are ticked off in a big way at running back Brian Westbrook for his decision to boycott last week's mandatory post-draft minicamp.

Westbrook was one of three no-shows for the camp along with wide receiver Terrell Owens and defensive tackle Corey Simon. A fourth, wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, was released after being told not to attend the workouts.

While coach Andy Reid's public stance was that the absences were no big deal -- "It gives other players an opportunity to get themselves better, show what they're all about," he said. "I think that's the risk of not being here; other players open up coaches' eyes." -- he was not at all pleased that Westbrook chose not to attend.

Westbrook, a restricted free agent, is frustrated over the wide gap in negotiations with the team over a long-term contract. He has yet to sign the Eagles' $1.43 million tender, even though the deadline for signing an offer sheet with another club was three weeks ago. Most restricted free agents sign their tenders before the draft and participate in minicamp.

Westbrook's agent, Tony Agnone, has said that his client will sign the tender by June 15, when the Eagles would be able to substitute a lesser offer. He also said Westbrook will report to training camp on time, something Owens and Simon probably won't do.

But this is expected to be the last year in Philadelphia for Owens, who will turn 32 in December, and the inconsistent Simon, who was designated the club's franchise player in February and clearly wants out. But the Eagles still are hopeful of eventually re-signing Westbrook, though they're still reluctant to give big money to a running back that, while a key to their offensive success last year, only averaged 13 touches per game and still has durability issues. His decision not to attend the minicamp only has widened the negotiating gulf between the two sides.

The uncertainty over what's going to happen with Westbrook was a major reason the Eagles selected a Westbrook clone -- 5-8, 210-pound Ryan Moats of Louisiana Tech -- in the third round of the draft.



NOTES

--Terrell Owens is one of five Eagles who now have Drew Rosenhaus as their agent. The other four -- defensive ends Jerome McDougle, Jevon Kearse and Hugh Douglas, and offensive tackle Tra Thomas. Rosenhaus currently is persona non grata at the Novacare Complex after notifying the Eagles that Owens wants his one-year-old contract redone and probably will holdout of training camp -- and possibly sit out the season -- if that doesn't happen. But Rosenhaus' other clients vehemently defend their agent.

"He's a good guy who really works hard for his players," said McDougle, the club's '03 first-round pick. "Some agents are out for themselves, and they're not trying to do what's best for the player all the time. Drew is always looking out for the player. The people who hate him are the guys in the front office who don't want to pay the players. Drew fights for his players, and his players love him."

Said Douglas: "Everybody has a certain way of doing things, and he's definitely rubbed some people the wrong way. But I think if you look at his track record and everything he's done for people, that speaks for itself."

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