It was an odd thing for Andy Reid to say.
The Eagles had just closed their first full-squad camp of the spring last month, and the head coach, before reprimanding the Philadelphia media for their inability to find a positive story, noted that the next time all his players gathered at the NovaCare Complex, they would do so on a voluntary basis.
"Again, this is not a mandatory camp coming up," Reid said. "These are OTAs [off-season training activities], and players have the option of being here or not being here."
Why Reid started his thought with the word again is a mystery because he had never said anything quite like that before.
Show up if you want? Stay at home if you'd prefer?
That's not the kind of thing any NFL head coach is in the habit of saying.
The player voted most likely to take up Reid on his invitation to stay away from the full-squad workouts that begin today is cornerback Lito Sheppard, who is feeling both underappreciated and underpaid these days.
With Sheppard having lost his starting job to prized free agent Asante Samuel, it wouldn't be surprising if the six-year Eagles veteran decided to boycott this camp. His closest friend on the team, however, said he thought the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback would take the high road and show up today.
"To be honest with you, I think he'll be there," fellow cornerback Sheldon Brown said yesterday.
Sheppard, who refused to say whether he would attend this camp at the end of the previous one, did not return a phone call yesterday.
Since we last saw Sheppard, there has been a report on ESPN-AM (950) radio that the Eagles would give him some repetitions at wide receiver during this camp.
"That wouldn't surprise me," Brown said. "Lito has wanted to play wide receiver since he came to Philadelphia."
Sheppard would probably prefer that the Eagles pass him some extra cash rather than the football, but maybe lining up wide on offense can appease him for one season.
Of course, a scenario that still remains a distinct possibility is that the Eagles will trade Sheppard before the start of the season. There have been reports that the Eagles are interested in Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, and the team has not denied them recently. One team official did say during the draft that the Eagles were not interested in Taylor.
The dream scenario for Eagles fans remains the acquisition of a star receiver such as Detroit's Roy Williams or Cincinnati's Chad Johnson, but neither the Lions nor the Bengals have expressed an interest in trading their star players.
Johnson's situation could get interesting later this month. According to ProFootballTalk.com, the disgruntled receiver plans to attend the Bengals' mid-June mandatory minicamp, but he is likely to behave in much the same manner Terrell Owens did during training camp with the Eagles in 2005. Owens, of course, was sent home from that training camp by Reid.
For now, Sheppard is an Eagle, and a voluntary camp begins today at the NovaCare Complex. As Reid has said, the "players have the option of being here or not being here."