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What Is Early Word?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's experimental online "morning show", which began in Sept. 2005, went on hiatus in the summer of 2006, after a gradual shift to putting more of its content directly on

About the Host
Peter Mucha, husband and father of two, grew up in Cherry Hill and is a lifelong Philly sports fan. He's been writing and editing for The Inquirer for 18 years. His motto (at least for today): "If I'm not brief, give me grief."

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The Inquirer's ever-evolving way to start your day. Email. Phone: 215-854-2388.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Eagles Lose Bentley to Cleveland 

This just in: The Cleveland Browns have signed Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley. This added later: "I can die happy," said Bentley, who, along with his agent, denied they ever agreed to do a deal with Philadelphia.

How the news became known Saturday morning:

Despite newspaper reports this morning that Bentley would be an Eagle by now, this morning's rumors have proved to be true. In Philly, word began getting out with a message posted by Birds spokesreporter Dave Spadaro on the team's message boards: "Just to let you know, and I will post it soon: At 10:19 a.m., no visitors are scheduled. There are some visitors around the league. Bentley, for instance, is visiting Cleveland. If you wanted him, apparently he could be headed for the Browns." His next: "I called to get my update and instead of hearing that a player is visiting, I heard that nothing is scheduled. Bentley is going to Cleveland at this point." Then: "Sorry, but I'm not kidding and I'm not happy."

Later Early Word added this: A Cleveland Plain Dealer message board has this post: "Per Sirius NFL RADIO 124, 11:20 AM..Bentley has signed a 6 year deal w/Browns, 12 Million in guaranteed money! GREAT MOVE!!!!"

On her mid-morning Saturday show, WIP's Rhea Hughes reported hearing Bentley's visit to Philly last night was postponed because a doctor wasn't available for the exam, so the Saints center, who went to high school and college in Ohio (Ohio State), decided to check out what the Browns might offer. Update: About 1:30 p.m. Hughes said on WIP that the Eagles deny doctors were unavailable.
Continue reading here ...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Terrell Owen's Unfinished Business 

Soon the Eagles will cancel the Great T.O. Experiment, by trading or cutting the wideout. (See Countdown Clock at right.) Oh, but you can be sure, that won't end it. Yes, Owens, lips zipped and website-inactive for many weeks, will catch on with a new team, but, no, that still won't end his business with Philadelphia, even if he finally sells his Moorestown mansion.

First, remember, there's still a grievance pending, filed by the players' union against the Eagles, not only for the team's refusal to pay his post-suspension salary, but for demanding he repay a lot of his signing bonus. The union told Early Word no date for the hearing has been set yet, because its lawyers have been kind of busy, with some sort of collective-bargaining agreement. League spokesman Greg Aiello explained that the suspension was more urgent to settle because Owens was missing games, which is not in any way to make light of Owens missing money.

The new NFL contract even addresses this situation, saying a team can't get signing bonus bucks back unless a player retires early or refuses to play. Nothing in new deal, though, is retroactive, Aiello says, so the new provisions don't pertain to the Eagles-Owens dispute.

Second, remember those remarks by Donovan McNabb about Owens committing "black-on-black crime"? T.O. never responded. But you can bet he will. And it won't be just to say, "Oh, I know Donovan was exaggerating. Maybe he just got tired while talking to reporters at the Super Bowl."

Nickname the Sixers 

Third late-game loss in a row. What could we call them? The Buzzer Beatens ... The Johnny-Lose-Latelies ... The Brick Layers ... The Deep-Sixers ... Done. Why Webber sat.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Flyers Get Gauthier 

The Flyers made a couple of moves before the NHL's 3 p.m. trade deadline. Defenseman Denis Gauthier was acquired from Phoenix for winger Josh Gratton and a pair of second-round picks. And right wing Niko Dimitrakos is on his way from San Jose, to provide some depth, for a third-round pick. Those rumors about Mark Recchi returning? He was traded to Carolina. ESPN's Trade Tracker says of Gauthier: "former first-round pick ... set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end ... never exactly lived up to his pre-NHL billing ... force along the blue line. At 6-foot-3, 224 pounds and a heavy hitter, Gauthier fits the Flyer prototype." Flyers GM Bob Clarke was true to his word, expressed in an Inquirer story about yesterday's cutting of Turner Stevenson to clear cap room: "You hope you can patch a couple holes with draft picks."

Earlier roundup of Flyers rumors:
Update: Flyers have waived Turner Stevenson today to clear cap space. "The Flyers are not looking for a home run deal," adds The Inquirer's Tim Panacchio. "They don't have the depth to make such a move unless they get quality youth in return, such as Florida center Olli Jokinen."

Hockey's trade deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow, and deals will be tough to do, Flyers GM Bob Clarke tells The Inquirer. The article drops another name: Florida's Olli Jokinen, but the price would be high, and "I don't want to be trading my young players," says Clarke. The only names Clarke mentions are which Flyers should be returning from injuries. So far, the strongest speculation among the media is that Mark Recchi could be coming back. WIP's Al Morganti said Tuesday morning he wouldn't do the deal if it means giving up center R.J. Umberger, whom Pittsburgh wants. "I think there's a better than 50-50 chance they get Recchi by the end of the week," said WIP's Glen Macnow Monday night. Hinting at having inside info, he named other possible targets: Derek Morris, Geoff Sanderson or Mike Johnson of Phoenix, and Wes Walz of Minnesota. He also speculated about Brian Leetch making sense for the Flyers, if Boston's willing to deal him. Generally, he said, the Flyers are looking for veterans whose contracts are almost up, and who could be gotten for minor-leaguers, draft picks or role players. More players who might fit, according to the Courier-Post: N.Y. Islanders' Mark Parrish, Shawn Bates and Brad Lukowich; St. Louis' Dallas Drake and Eric Weinrich; Phoenix's Mike Ricci; Edmonton's Michael Peca; and Buffalo's Jay McKee. What about Vancouver forward / sucker-puncher Todd Bertuzzi? "It ain't gonna happen," says Flyers GM Bob Clarke.

Last night, a Macnow guest named Ecklund, who hosts a hockey rumor blog, said a possible longshot was getting Phoenix winger Shane Doan, who'll be a free agent at the end of the season, but the Flyers would have to give up a good young player like Mike Richards or Jeff Carter. Ecklund added that several teams are after Morris, so he could be tough to get. Flyers players themselves scoff at the guessing games.
Continue reading here ...

Arrington wants Philly? Fans want him! 

Don't hold your breath, since the Eagles hate overpaying linebackers. But free-agent LaVar Arrington has said he'd like to play for either the Giants or the Eagles, who have more salary-cap room. The Birds have the best shot, says one report, which points out the ex-Penn State star's best seasons in Washington were alongside Jeremiah Trotter, who's since returned to the Eagles. But Arrington clearly is also flirting with the Giants, whose middle linebacker has petitioned the front office to bid, another report says. It suggests that resentment, if not revenge, contributes to Arrington's leanings: "I'd just love to bless [the Redskins] with my presence twice a year," he told a Miami radio station.

Yesterday's signing of linebacker Shawn Barber shouldn't rule out a deal here, since the Eagles had disappointing seasons from both of its starting outside linebackers, Keith Adams and Dhani Jones.

Afternoon update: The Eagles have no interest in Arrington, spokesjournalist Dave Spadaro said this afternoon on a live call-in show on the team's website. They would if they thought he was really an "impact player," but "clearly the Eagles do not evaluate him as that kind of player."

In any case, Arrington still leads in fan support, with more than a quarter of over 1,500 votes in an Early Word poll, moved up from an earlier look at possible Eagles moves. Also check out a fuller roundup of rumors.
Who would you most like to see the Eagles sign?
Free polls from

That's What They Said 

"Bonds makes Terrell Owens look like a popcorn-selling Boy Scout."
Martin McNeal, Sacramento Bee

If the Eagles go into the season thinking Trent Cole is going to be an every down force at defensive end, "they are making a big mistake like they did with Mike McMahon."
ESPN's Sal Paolantonio today on the Eagles website's call-in show.

"I guarantee you Mike Anderson doesn't want to come here and be a bit player."
Eagles' Dave Spadaro today on the Eagles website's call-in show.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Eagles Update: Give Us Your Aging and Injured? 

LeCharles Bentley must be getting tired of waiting for free agency.

Update: The Eagles have signed linebacker Shawn Barber, re-signed defensive end/special teamer Juqua Thomas to one-year deals. Barber had lots to say at his news conference. More on Thomas.

Earlier today came word that the Eagles might be interested in Jets center Kevin Mawae. That's surprising because (a) word was they're keen on signing Saints center LeCharles Bentley, (b) Mawae is 35, nine years older than Bentley, and (c) Mawae's coming off a torn triceps injury. The Birds are also reported to have interest in Jeff Garcia, who's 36 and whose quarterback rating has dropped for five straight years, and linebacker Shawn Barber, who's 31 and missed 21 games due to injuries the last two seasons, but worked out for the Eagles this morning. Does it make sense for a team whose roster is riddled with recovering players -- Donovan McNabb, Todd Pinkston and Jerome McDougal, for starters -- to gamble on more wounded warriors? Such moves have backfired before, with Correll Buckhalter missing his second season in a row, Paul Grasmanis missing all but eight games in three years. In an increasingly competitive division, the Eagles need to acquire potential difference-makers in their primes. Names that fit that group: Steelers multiple-threat Antwaan Randle El, age 26; Giants defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, 27; linebacker LaVar Arrington, 27, who's said he wants to stay in the Eagles division. (For more names, see previous rumor roundup.) We should get a good idea soon of how bold the Birds will be. The free-agent signing period starts a minute after midnight, unless the league, still debating a labor settlement, postpones it once again.

She's the Queen of Sweepstakes 

She tells her story, shares advice. She finds all sorts of giveaways at

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

M. Night's Spooky-Cool Ad 

See M. Night Shyamalan's 2-minute American Express ad during the Oscars?He sits alone in a restaurant people-watching and "seeing" odd dramas unfold. A couple chats ... and a baby carriage comes rolling along. As an angry man starts choking, his cold-souled girlfriend simply stares straight ahead. A hood falls off a skinhead, who reveals strange arm tattoos. Does a ghost trip the waitress? Very unusual to see an ad build a sense of eeriness. But that fits the sensibilities of the Sixth Sense director, whose Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story is scheduled for a July release. See Shyamalan's new ad. See Lady in the Water trailer. Adweek tells more.

A Contest That's 'Priceless' 

MasterCard invites you to fill in the blanks for a couple of new "Priceless" ads. If you win you get a $1,000 gift card and ... to see your ad on TV. Pretty cool. But strikes us as cheap. There are some things money can't buy, and some things rich companies can afford to reward.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Philadelphia Eagles Rumors Roundup 

Let me be frank. While NFL labor talks have been on a rollercoaster, with word of a new proposal to be presented tomorrow, the local rumor mill has been in a bit of a lull. Except for a couple of updates (Eagles o-line realignment, LaVar Arrington buys his freedom), not much has surfaced since Saturday, when Saints center LeCharles Bentley denied reports that he was all but certain to sign with Philly. Monday's Inquirer sticks by its story, though. CBS Sportsline ranks "Le Big Mac" as the No. 2 free agent, just ahead of soon-to-be-free T.O. (See Early Word item below.) Landing LeCharles could signal a realignment of the offensive line, with backup center Jamaal Jackson moving to guard, guard Shawn Andrews to tackle (replacing Jon Runyan), and starting center Hank Fraley to limbo. K.C. linebacker Shawn Barber, once with the Birds, and QB Jeff Garcia are also in the team's sights, Comcast Sportnet said Friday tonight, adding the Birds may cut both of Donovan McNabb's backups, Koy Detmer and Mike McMahon. A Barber signing probably undercuts the chances of seeing Carolina linebacker Will Witherspoon here, or newly free Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, who's too probably too headstrong and pricey for a team that devalues linebackers. So who'd be the third QB? Maybe the versatile Super Bowl-TD-tossing Antwaan Randle El, who has the same agent as McNabb, though bidding might drive the price sky-high. On the defensive line, also tempting but costly would be Seahawks tackle Rocky Bernard, but "underrated" Packers end Aaron Kampman could be a surprise signing, says NBC10. Other d-tackles talked about: Giants' Kendrick Clancy, a restricted free agent, and Pro Bowler La'Roi Glover, cut Friday by the Cowboys. The NFL owners and players fail to agree on a higher salary cap, teams would have to get under the $94.5 million cap on Wednesday. An intriguing player who could be set free is Buffalo receiver Eric Moulds, who seems to appeal more to fans than the Eagles. Also bandied about but with reasons to doubt: Seahawks receiver Joe Jurevicius (Eagles see bigger needs), Seahawks guard Steve Huchinson (expensive transition player, ranked No. 1 by CBS), ; any starting-quality running back (not a priority position here, big investment in Brian Westbrook), and the Eagles' own Jon Runyan (age), who might land in Houston, San Diego or Arizona, writes the Trenton Times' Mark Eckel. Or cap-space-rich Minnesota, coached by ex-Birds offensive coordinator Brad Childress, says WIP's Glen Macnow. More buzz: The Eagles might draft tight end Vernon Davis, might trade d-tackle Hollis Thomas (see note at end) and are worried about health of returner-safety J.R. Reed.

Now, Spell Check 'SquarePants' 


NFL Revenue-Gap Solution: Pay Taxpayers Back! 

Eagles spokesman Dave Spadaro, blogging yesterday about the NFL labor talks, wrote: "The Eagles invested more than $300 million into the construction of Lincoln Financial Field and have built a 'gold standard' of marketing, Internet, merchandise, cheerleading and television operations. It's a tremendous model that required a lot of commitment, vision and, yes, capital.
Why not be rewarded for that?"

Excuse me, Dave. Two omissions. First, shouldn't a 'gold standard' include championships? Second, didn't you mean, "a lot of commitment, vision and, yes, capital, including a ton of taxpayer money"? Here's a great idea for cutting the gap between rich and super-rich teams: Have the super-rich teams pay the taxpayers back the corporate welfare that help build their subsidized stadiums. Having a gold standard of cheerleading isn't enough.

Eagles Rumors Prompt Humor 

What do fans have to say about recent Eagles rumors? Well, mostly they made up rumors of their own ... and pointedly pointed out a couple corrections to Early Word's earlier report. You'll find the comments below, the updated rumor roundup above.

Go to: Early Word = Philadelphia Inquirer = = Lighter Side

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