Jackson mentors youth, talks Super Bowl

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Jackson mentors youth, talks Super Bowl

It was hot. Frankly, it was really hot.

Then again, kids aren't exactly worried about the heat when they get to take the football field with an athlete like DeSean Jackson.

The Eagles' wide receiver hosted his third-annual football camp for local youth in Moorestown, N.J. Friday morning. It's a two-day program in which Jackson and his staff coach kids ages 7-16, providing lessons for use on and off the field.

"It's a driving situation for a kid to be inspired by an NFL player," Jackson said. "I'm just fortunate to be in the position I'm in. I want to come out and help, and not only let these guys come out here and have fun, but actually teach them life skills as well -- teamwork, how to work with another. To have fun, but to get something out of it."

Over 150 kids dressed in shorts and camp T-shirts ran drills as Jackson and his staff shared tips and shouted words of encouragement, words that, coming from a Pro Bowler, have an extra chance to resonate.

"I think it's more physical," he said of the opportunity to interact up-close, rather than have the kids admire him from the stands or from home. "They're actually seeing it in-person. They're able to touch it, to talk to me afterwards."

The camp isn't Jackson's only foray into mentoring youth. He appeared on the "The View" last year to meet with a local boy who was being persistently bullied. A big fan of Jackson's in the first place, he received an autographed jersey from No. 10 himself.

"DeSean is really committed to helping the young guys. It's a big deal to he and his family," Jackson's agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "This is more than a football camp. It's about staying away from drugs, staying away from bullying, studying hard...

"He's very committed to being a role model."

The sight of Rosenhaus not just at the camp, but also in an Eagles hat certainly says something about how times have changed for both he and Jackson. Once public enemy No. 1 dating back to his press conference in Terrell Owens' driveway, Rosenhaus is now sporting the team's logo following an off-season signing period in which three of his clients -- Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis -- inked long-term deals with the club.

As for Jackson in specific, his future with the Eagles became increasingly uncertain last season as his contract concerns remained unsettled. Now, Rosenhaus is wearing the team hat and Jackson has a five-year, 48.5 million contract, 18 million of which is guaranteed.

"This time last year, we weren't sure what the future held in terms of his time in Philadelphia," Rosenhaus said. "We didn't know if he was going to play out his contract or get traded. It's just terrific that he was able to stay with the team and get a good deal and now he's got all of his focus on football and doing things like this."

Things like this -- the camp, for instance -- allow Jackson to show a side of himself most fans don't get a chance to see. Still, for as much as he enjoys taking the opportunity to use his fame for good, next season remains at the forefront of his mind.

"Everybody knows we're due for a Super Bowl," Jackson said. "I think everyone understands that and we know it's not an easy task. The past couple years of me being here, being so close, getting to the playoffs, and then last year not making the playoffs, I think the team and the coaches are at a level now where we understand what it is to have an opportunity to win and know what's at stake.

"Everybody's working hard at one common goal. Contracts -- all that type of stuff is out the way now. We're able to focus as a team. We're out there having fun."

So were the more than 150 kids on the field Friday, getting a chance to interact with someone like Jackson.

E-mail Nick Menta at nmenta@comcastsportsnet.com

Phils lose LHP in Rule 5 draft, exit winter meetings balancing present with future

Phils lose LHP in Rule 5 draft, exit winter meetings balancing present with future

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The winter meetings ended Thursday morning with the Phillies sitting out the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies’ roster was at the 40-man limit and that prohibited the team from making a pick.

The Phils did lose one player in the draft as reliever Hoby Milner was selected by the Cleveland Indians. 

Milner, who turns 26 in January, is a left-hander who recently switched to a side-arm delivery. He had a 2.49 ERA in 49 games at Double A and Triple A in 2016.

Milner was eligible for the draft because he was not protected on the 40-man roster last month. The Indians selected him for $50,000. He must stay in the big leagues all season or be offered back to the Phillies for $25,000.

Andrew Pullin was a player the Phillies feared losing, but they hung on to the lefty-hitting outfielder. Pullin, 23, hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

The Phillies selected one player, infielder Jorge Flores, in the minor-league phase of the draft. Flores had been in the Toronto system.

The Phils lost one player, 25-year-old pitcher Jairo Munoz, to Tampa Bay in the minor-league phase. Munoz pitched in the low minors in 2016.

With the winter meetings behind them, Phillies officials will head back to Citizens Bank Park to complete the construction of their 2017 roster. So far this winter, the Phils have re-signed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and added outfielder Howie Kendrick and relievers Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and David Rollins.

Remaining on the Phillies’ to-do list is adding a backup infielder – Andres Blanco could return – and deciding whether to pursue a veteran hitter to play a corner outfield spot or give an opportunity to a young tandem such as Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr. 

General manager Matt Klentak spoke often during the week about that balance he is trying to strike between improving the 2017 club while keeping intact long-range goals.

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside – that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

Time will tell which way the Phillies go on this matter. 

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

There were just two things on Paul Turner’s mind as he sprinted across the field early during the third quarter on Sunday, anticipating his first career NFL catch. 

Turner relayed them on Wednesday: 

1. “Make sure you get in [Carson Wentz’s] vision.” 

2. “You better catch this ball.” 

He did both. 

Turner, the 23-year-old undrafted receiver from Louisiana Tech, who has become a fan favorite since his stellar training camp and preseason, caught his first NFL pass during Sunday’s loss to the Bengals and it went for a big gain of 41 yards. 

On his first catch, the Eagles used the play-action to tilt the defense and Wentz threw a dart into a small window to hit Turner on an over route. Then, the rookie turned upfield with a ton of space in front of him. 

By the end of the afternoon, he caught six balls for 80 yards. It was the best receiving day for an Eagles rookie since Jordan Matthews in 2014 and was a better day than last year’s first-round pick, Nelson Agholor, has ever had. 

“It's always good to catch a few balls,” said Turner, who has been on the 53-man roster and active for just the past two games. “It gets your motor going and gets your confidence going. It just gets you more into the game and gets you excited. I think it does a lot for a person's confidence.”

Turner played 41 snaps against the Bengals in large part because Matthews was out with an ankle injury. Matthews predominantly plays in the slot, which is where head coach Doug Pederson and his coaching staff like Turner. 

“Honestly, that wasn't really my mindset going into the game,” Turner said when asked if he knew how much opportunity he’d have with Matthews out. “My mindset was to go in there and if my number was called, just go out there and make a play. Even if my number was called, just take care of my assignment and take care of the little details and I knew everything else would just take care of itself. I knew that if I got the ball, I'd be excited. But even if I didn't, just to go out there and just block, and give up myself for my teammates. That was my goal coming into the game and just try to stay focused on that.” 

It appears as though Turner has done enough to warrant keeping his playing time. As Matthews returned to practice on Wednesday — as a limited participant — Pederson said there will still be opportunities for Turner. 

“There are, there are,” Pederson said. “And these are things we talked about the last couple of days as a staff — getting Paul in there, even with Jordan coming back. I think it can be a benefit to the offense to have both of those guys ready to go.”

The Eagles still haven’t had more than four receivers active for any game this season. During the last two weeks when Turner has played, either Agholor or Matthews were out. 

“It means a lot that the coaching staff has confidence in me,” Turner said. “My biggest thing is just to come in here and just work each and every day in practice and just prepare in practice so I'm prepared when I go out there in the game.”