If You Need Someone to Wrestle a Bear, Jonathan Papelbon Is Probably Your Guy, Says Ryan Howard

If You Need Someone to Wrestle a Bear, Jonathan Papelbon Is Probably Your Guy, Says Ryan Howard

Sometime you may find yourself in a situation where there is a grizzly bear trying to get into your camp and steal all your peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches. Bears are always hungry. It can be a problem. So you might need someone to wrestle the bear. That's where Jonathan Papelbon comes in handy.

Ryan Lawrence, the Phillies beat writer for the Daily News, put together an interesting yet flawed -- more on that in a minute -- "offbeat" Q&A with Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard earlier in the week and asked him some crazy stuff.

A sampling:

DN: Who in here would have the best chance at killing a bear in the woods?

RH: That's where you have to find your hunters. I would say – I'd put Cookie in there, Cliff (Lee) in there.

DN: You don't think Roy Halladay is keeping charts on the bear, figuring out its weaknesses?

RH: I'd probably say (Jonathan) Papelbon; he'd probably wrestle (the bear). I would say those three guys.

And later in their conversation:

[Papelbon walks into room.] See, doesn't that look like someone who would wrestle a bear? Exactly.

We're with you, Big Piece. Nick threw together the photoshop you see above to help nail that point home.

So about those flaws in the journalistic integrity of the Q&A... Howard is asked about his television watching habits and admits to watching way too many Real Housewives shows.

He's admitted to this in the past as well.

Once Howard puts it out there though, Lawrence fails to ask the hard-hitting follow ups. What's your favorite Real Housewives city? Who is your favorite Real Housewives character? Etc.?

Solid Q&A otherwise. And the correct answers are obviously New Jersey, and Kim Richards or Teresa Giudice.

>>Offbeat Q&A with Phillies' Ryan Howard [DN]

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Phillies can be forgiven to some extent for their failure to get consistent production out of their corner outfielders this season. After all, they've been without one of their projected starters since spring training.

The good news is Aaron Altherr is on the verge of returning after missing almost four months with a wrist injury. The 25-year-old reached the final stop of his rehab tour through the Phillies' minor league system Tuesday, going 1 for 3 with a double in a 4-2 victory for the Triple A Ironpigs.

Needless to say, Altherr is feeling better.

"It's going good," Altherr said of his recovery. "It gets a little tight every now and then. Just gotta loosen it up. I'm good to go."

Altherr suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist attempting a diving catch in a Grapefruit League game back in March. The injury was expected to keep the righthander out four-to-six months, possibly even ending his season.

If the current rehab assignment is any indication, it turns out he's about ready to rejoin the Phillies. Through 12 minor league games, which includes stints at Reading, Clearwater and in the Gulf Coast League, Altherr is 13 for 34 (.351) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. He's also walked seven times to six strikeouts and stolen two bases. Yet while clearly enjoying himself, he feels as though he's ready to rejoin the big club.

"It's been fun," Altherr said. "Was just down to (Double A) Reading, good crowd there. It's gonna be another good crowd up here (in Lehigh Valley) I'm sure. I always enjoy going to these places and seeing people again, so it's definitely fun.

"Mentally and physically, I think I'm ready to go. My timing is there. I'm just ready to go and get after it and play some games up there."

As for what he could bring to MLB's 29th-ranked offense, which too often this season has seen little impact from its corner outfielders, Altherr will do what he can to provide a spark for the Phillies.

"I hope so," Altherr said. "I'm not gonna try to do too much though. I'm just gonna go up there and do what I know I can do and hopefully help out the team any way I can."

A ninth-round draft pick in 2009, Altherr got his first serious look with the Phillies last year, batting .241 with 19 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in 39 games. It wasn't nearly enough to anoint the German-born prospect as part of the franchise's rebuilding effort, but the organization was hoping to use 2016 to evaluate his potential as an everyday player.

"I wouldn't say missed opportunity," Altherr said about the poor timing of his injury. "Things like this happen. I'll get back stronger than ever and show what I can do. It is what it is. I've worked hard every day and tried to get back as fast as I could."

He's right, of course. It's not like all is lost in that sense. Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel have had their moments, but none has cemented his role moving forward. Outside of likely September call-up Nick Williams posting quality numbers at Triple A, there isn't exactly a long line of players knocking down the door for one of those two spots.

"There's always going to be competition no matter where you are in life, so I definitely don't really think about it too much," Altherr said. "I just have to go out there and control what I can control and play the way I know I can play."

Altherr's opportunity is coming any day now. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete who also happens to be a plus-defender could bring a lot to the mix for the Phillies right now. It may be too late to find out this year if he has a long and bright future with the club, but he could certainly provide some excitement down the stretch.

Jim Schwartz: Eagles' defense 'rather attack than read'

Jim Schwartz: Eagles' defense 'rather attack than read'

For all his talk about schemes and technical minutiae, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s coaching philosophy is pretty simple.

“In a nutshell, we want to allow less points than our offense scores," Schwartz said. "Rankings, stats — the only thing that matters in this league is wins and losses. I’ll take a 42-41 game; I might not sleep well afterwards, but I’ll take it. I’d rather have that than a 7-3 game that you lose.”

That said, Schwartz emphasized his defense’s attack-first mindset after the second day of Eagles training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday (see Day 2 observations).

“We want to be an attack defense,” he said. “We want to put pressure on the quarterback.”

While Schwartz has preferred that style throughout his coaching career, he’s always cognizant of his personnel and what sort of approach best suits them. For the Eagles, he feels that a defense in which the front four is putting pressure on the quarterback and the linebackers and defensive backs are playing aggressively is the perfect system (see story).

“I think [this defense] fits the guys really well here,” Schwartz said. “And I think if you’d ask them, they’d rather attack than read. It puts us in a little better position to rush the passer, it puts us in a little better position to set hard edges. It’s been our philosophy. And I think if you ask offensive coordinators, they’d tell you the same thing — if you can get there with four, you have a big advantage as a defense.”

Schwartz talked extensively about how he’s altered his defense depending on the strengths and weaknesses of his players. Looking at defensive ends in particular, Schwartz explained his ends don’t all line up in an identical “Wide 9” alignment. Rather, he noted that the positioning and technique for the pairings of Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Antwan Odom during his time as defensive coordinator in Tennessee (2001-08) varied considerably from that of Cliff Avril and Ziggy Ansah when he coached Detroit (2009-13), and Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes in Buffalo (2014).

“We try to match the talent that we have to the techniques that we’re asking guys to play,” Schwartz said. “And even here, some of the stuff that Brandon [Graham] is doing is a little different than what Vinny [Curry] is doing.”

As for the Eagles’ biggest offseason decision, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Schwartz is very confident in Cox’s ability to thrive in his defense.

“[Cox] fits our scheme," he said. "I think we have some things for him that should fit him well. He’s a tough matchup; he’s a tough matchup vs. guards, he’s a tough matchup vs. some tackles, and I like some of the stuff that they did with him here last year, moved him around a little bit … it’s our job to create matchups for him.”

Even though Schwartz loves to discuss the details that make his defenses succeed, he understands it’s his job to clearly teach his schemes so that his players are able to react and, of course, attack, instead of thinking excessively on the field.

“We want to put guys in good positions, communicate well, play what fits them, all those things are important to us,” he said. “We’re not trying to set a record for being difficult.”

Undrafted rookies Byron Marshall, Aziz Shittu face uphill battle with Eagles

Undrafted rookies Byron Marshall, Aziz Shittu face uphill battle with Eagles

Defensive tackle Aziz Shittu spent this spring in Stanford University classrooms, working toward his degree in psychology, just hoping his NFL dream wasn’t slipping away.

Like third-round pick Isaac Seumalo, Shittu and fellow undrafted rookie Byron Marshall missed all team OTAs and the minicamp because of the arcane NCAA/NFL graduation rule, which preys on schools that operate on quarters systems.

But unlike Seumalo, nothing is guaranteed for Shittu or Marshall.

It’s tough enough to make an NFL roster as an undrafted player. Now, they have to try to do it after missing the bulk of team activities this spring.

“It’s tough,” said Shittu, who earned his degree after taking 19 units at Stanford this spring. “It’s tough to be in two places at once. But I know how important it was for me to get my degree and I couldn’t come here because of the graduation rule.

“I got my degree and was able to focus as much as I could on what they were doing out here. It’s tough to be at two places at once, but I tried my best.”

Earlier this week, Seumalo said while he was at Oregon State this spring, he Skyped with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland four or five times per week for a half hour to an hour at a time.

The undrafted players weren’t afforded that luxury.

Shittu was in contact with defensive line coach Chris Wilson, but “it wasn’t too often.” Marshall, meanwhile, didn’t have any contact with coaches during his time away, but kept in contact with his former Oregon teammates Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff, as well as fellow undrafted running back Cedric O’Neal.

Both Shittu and Marshall said the biggest hurdle for them upon their return to the team is burying themselves in the playbook. They are trying to soak up as much as possible at the NovaCare Complex during the day before retiring to their hotel rooms to study the playbook even more.

They’re playing catch-up.

But don’t tell them that.

“I wouldn’t call it that,” Marshall said. “I know I have a little more work to do, but I wouldn’t call it that.”

“You could say that,” Shittu said, “but it’s just trying to stay focused on what I have to do here at training camp. The past has happened already. Now, I’m just focused on what I have to do in the future.”

Shittu and Marshall said there were other teams interested in them after going undrafted, but thought they fit better with the Eagles.

Shittu was being courted by the Eagles and Houston Texans, but thought the Eagles’ 4-3 scheme (the Texans run a 3-4), along with opportunity to make the team thanks to depth issues, made Philly an obvious choice. This week, in addition to working as a defensive tackle, Shittu has also taken snaps as a defensive end. He said he’s happy to become as versatile as he can.

Marshall cited Doug Pederson’s offense as the main reason he came to the Eagles. He thinks it plays to his strengths. In college, Marshall made a huge impact not only in the run game, but also catching passes out of the backfield and as a receiver. Since he’s been in Philly, the Eagles haven’t talked to him about playing receiver.

While Shittu already finished school, Marshall hopes to earn his degree in journalism and communications from Oregon next spring.

For now, he’s just trying to stick with the Eagles.

“I don’t see it as an audition [for other teams],” Marshall said. “I’m out here trying to make this team. I’m doing everything I can to do that.”