Eagles' LBs soaking in Kevin Greene at camp

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Eagles' LBs soaking in Kevin Greene at camp

It’s not too often you get to learn from one of the best ever.

For the Eagles’ outside linebackers, having Kevin Greene at practice this week has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Greene, No. 3 in NFL history with 160 sacks, is spending three days this week at Eagles practice. Greene played under Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis in 1993 and 1994 with the Steelers and in 1996 and 1998 under Davis with the Panthers.

Davis’ backers are loving every minute of it.

“We have the same body type, similar speed, similar arm length,” Connor Barwin said. “So the way he teaches pass rush is invaluable to me because I can try to carry that over to my game.

“There’s things I’m seeing already, just lessons he’s given me from playing the position for 15 years, the ins and outs and detail of it that he’s taught me the last couple of days that I already brought to the field today, and I can see them helping, so … I’m excited to use what he’s telling me throughout the season.”

Greene trails only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) on the NFL’s all-time sack list. After recording 13½ sacks in his first three seasons, he averaged 12.2 sacks over the next 12 years with the Rams, Steelers, Panthers and 49ers.

Greene led the NFL in sacks twice, one of only four players in history to do so. He went to five Pro Bowls and made first-team all-pro twice. He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been picking his brain as much as I can,” Brandon Graham said. “He’s giving us a whole lot, and it doesn’t stop when he leaves. We have to keep harping on it and remember what he said. So far, so good. It’s just all about staying consistent, master a couple rushes and a couple counter moves and perfect it. That’s what he did. I feel like I’m getting a whole lot out of it.”

Greene retired after the 1999 season, and after a pro wrestling career, he returned to the NFL in 2009, spending five seasons coaching with the Packers under head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Don Capers, who had coached Greene in Pittsburgh and Carolina. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 2010, then left coaching after the 2013 season to spend more time with his family.

He’s only in Philly for a brief few days, but he said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Barwin, Trent Cole, Graham, Marcus Smith and the Eagles’ other outside backers.

“I like them,” Greene said. “Every one of them has a good motor and they all seem to be into it mentally and really working hard. And not just them but everybody. Everybody seems to really be into practice as a team, amped up, really wanting to contribute. Everybody’s working hard, so I really like the atmosphere.

“It feels good to be a part of Philadelphia for a couple days and impart some wisdom on these young kids.”

Greene isn’t coaching these days, although he said he would consider returning to it one day.

His son Gavin is a sophomore at Niceville High School in the Florida Panhandle, where he plays football.

“I don’t miss coaching at all,” Greene said. “I’m doing the same thing with my son that I did with Clay [Matthews] and all my kids there in Green Bay. I’m having the time of my life.

“It’s fun just being a dad. I’m a dad. I’m just a dad. Get my son to practice, I bring him home, put him out in the field and work on some stuff. Father-son time. Really cool.”

For guys like Graham and Cole, having Greene around is a huge help as they try to continue transitioning from 4-3 defensive ends to 3-4 linebackers. For Smith and Barwin, it’s an opportunity to hone their skill even more.

“It’s a very basic, fundamental way of rushing the passer that he's bringing to our guys,” Davis said. “We are excited about picking his brain for three or four days before he leaves.”

Somehow, despite having the most sacks in NFL history by a linebacker, Greene is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a glaring omission.

“The guy has got 160 career sacks and I know I'm prejudice to him but I really do believe it's time for him to be in the Hall [of Fame],” Davis said.

Greene said he doesn’t lose any sleep over the Hall of Fame snub. He’s been a finalist in each of the last three years and should eventually get in.

But it’s impossible to imagine how a guy with more career sacks than Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Richard Dent, Jason Taylor and Derrick Thomas can routinely be ignored by the Hall of Fame voters.

“I look back on my 15 years and I know how I played and I know what I was able to accomplish,” Greene said after practice Monday at the NovaCare Complex (see practice observations).

“My goal was to pass Lawrence Taylor in sacks, because everybody looked at Lawrence Taylor as being the best outside backer and I was blessed to play longer and be more productive than the great Lawrence Tayor.

“So that’s where my peace lies. Whether anybody else recognizes that, that’s really out of my control. But I know what I was able to accomplish playing essentially the same position.”

NFL Notes: As Cowboys prep for training camp, Jerry Jones backs Ezekiel Elliott again

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NFL Notes: As Cowboys prep for training camp, Jerry Jones backs Ezekiel Elliott again

OXNARD, Calif. -- Jerry Jones interjected some bad-boy anecdotes from his youth, smiled at the thought of life before social media and even asked a couple of questions himself Sunday at his annual training camp opener with reporters.

When the topic is the multitude of off-field issues confronting the Dallas Cowboys -- headlined by star running back Ezekiel Elliott -- their owner, president and general manager can dance with the best of them.

"I can give you the same old excuses -- young, aggressive, got a lot of energy," Jones said. "Hard to paint that picture of the days when it won't be this easy, they won't be as pretty and they won't have the money. Somehow you've got to paint the picture."

Elliott is still waiting for clearance from the NFL on a year-old domestic violence case that prosecutors didn't pursue. The NFL rushing leader last season as a rookie, Elliott didn't help himself with his involvement in a bar fight a week before the Cowboys flew to California for camp.

Jones reiterated his belief that Elliott wasn't guilty of domestic violence in a dispute with his ex-girlfriend last summer in Columbus, Ohio, where he starred for Ohio State. But the Dallas owner still wouldn't speculate on whether Elliott will get suspended.

The Cowboys will have two suspended defensive players when the season starts in pass rushers David Irving and Randy Gregory. Two more could be: cornerback Nolan Carroll (drunken-driving charge) and linebacker Damien Wilson (aggravated assault charges).

Receiver Dez Bryant was late to report at the team's practice facility in suburban Dallas on Friday, a day before he was on the team flight to California. Irving decided to stay in California rather than report in Texas, and running back Darren McFadden missed the charter flight (see full story).

Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald motivated by quest for championship
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Training camp is a drag at this point in Larry Fitzgerald's long and accomplished NFL career. Of course, the quest for the ring is the main reason the 14-year veteran continues to play.

The longtime Arizona Cardinals wide receiver isn't sure what his future holds as far as retirement.

"That's the only reason I'm playing at this point," Fitzgerald said Sunday, the second day of Cardinals training camp. "From a personal standpoint, things I've accomplished, they're fine. But the thing that you will say is out of your control because you're in a team sport is a championship."

Fitzgerald said he feels good, and when retirement comes there won't be a podium or tears because "that's not who I am."

Yet it is important to him to still be productive as a player when he decides to step away. Fitzgerald admitted it would be a struggle to accept a diminished role due to not being able to give 100 percent.

"The end is never really pretty for elite athletes. It never looks good. You watch Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform or see Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos. ... It's weird because you're used to seeing them at their most dominant stage," Fitzgerald said. "For me, I really want to do things at a high level and be able to walk away and still be someone who can play at a high level."

Fitzgerald has asked others who are closer to retirement or have retired about their thought process going into it. He's been doing that for the last few years, checking in with the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Gonzalez.

For now, he still enjoys being around teammates and staff, asking questions in an effort to improve as a player and setting an example and providing leadership for young players (see full story).

Doug Pederson: Jordan Hicks had hand 'procedure,' shouldn't miss any time

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Doug Pederson: Jordan Hicks had hand 'procedure,' shouldn't miss any time

A few days from the first full-team practice of training camp, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson revealed starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks needed a "minor procedure" to fix his injured hand.

Although Pederson downplayed its significance.

“He injured his hand and he needed a minor procedure to fix that," Pederson said to the team website. "He shouldn’t miss any time. We’re going to keep on top of it and take it day by day with him. We may limit him a little bit, but he should be out there every day.”

In late June, CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank confirmed a PhillyVoice.com report about the injury. Hicks injured his hand getting out of a pool while on his honeymoon in Greece.

Hicks is obviously a very important piece of the Eagles' defense. He's the team's best linebacker and one of its biggest playmakers on that side of the ball. The more troubling thing is there isn't a ton of depth at LB. After the starters (Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks), the unit is extremely inexperienced.

In addition to Hicks, Pederson also gave the Eagles' website several other updates on players.

• Ryan Mathews, while still on the roster, has been excused from the team to rehab elsewhere. That hasn't changed since the end of the spring workouts.

• Jordan Matthews might be limited during training camp after dealing with a knee injury in the spring. Matthews did travel with his fellow receivers to work out in North Dakota with Carson Wentz earlier this month.

• Jason Peters will be managed during training camp to keep him fresh. That's not a surprise considering the starting left tackle is 35 and managing his reps last year allowed him to stay healthy.