Bye Week Book Review: Bowen's History of the Eagles

Bye Week Book Review: Bowen's History of the Eagles

The folks from MVP Books, a Minnesota-based publisher that is producing a series of NFL team history books, were kind enough to send us a copy of one of their new products, entitled Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete Illustrated History. Written by our man Les Bowen from the Daily News, the title also works as a succinct description -- no need to explain what you should expect to find between the covers.

But the question is whether or not it's worth the money for the diehards who were likely raised on anecdotes about the club's glory days, not to mention have lived through quite a bit of what we now call "history" ourselves. You may even already own a similar product, so what could possibly be so different inside this one? After 192 pages, the answer is you might be surprised.

The very first thing that caught my eye about this book was how vibrant everything was. The glossy paper makes color photos seemingly leap right off the pages, while the old black-and-whites are as vivid as you will ever see. I was really impressed by the quality of many of the pictures that were used from the 30's and 40's.

It's not just photos though. The pages are littered with depictions of memorabilia, including vintage gameday programs going all the way back to the team's first days, trading cards, pennants, patches, pins, ticket stubs, and even comics depicting larger than life stars like Steve Van Buren. The "illustrated" portion of this product alone makes this unique to other printed histories of the Birds.

Of course, it's the story of the franchise as told by Les Bowen. If you're a truly devoted fan, you're no doubt at least familiar with the team's rich tradition.

Bowen delivers a faithful retelling, walking the reader through each decade's important games and milestones, the characters who shaped the team and their backgrounds, and the experiences that defined the respective time periods. He often expertly draws on old quotes from players, coaches, and reporters to give definition to his accounts of the events.

And needless to say, there's a hint of that Bowen snark in there as well.

Every several pages, the main story breaks off, replaced by inserts that delve deeper into the lives and roles of Philadelphia's most important footballers. From Bert Bell to Ricky Watters, and Chuck Bednarik to Jim Johnson, the focus briefly shifts to individuals who were either great or otherwise interesting to the story for one reason or another.

Overall, it creates a nice package that, to my knowledge, has not been replicated. The History of the Eagles DVD is fantastic, when you have time to sit down and kill a couple hours. Ray Didinger's Eagles Encyclopedia is overflowing with information and is a fine keepsake too, but it's not exactly a chronological tale, and simply doesn't match the illustrated aspect of this.

It's always easier to write a glowing review when you get something for free, but I can honestly say Eagles fans can be proud to display this on their coffee table or in their memorabilia room. It's the type of item you don't even have to be a football fan to appreciate just how colorful the pages are, and how fascinating the sport's history can be.

If you collect these sorts of things, Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete Illustrated History comes with a high recommendation. Or if you happen to see this sitting out at a buddy's house, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes flipping through. It's a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.