Celek Has Mild Knee Sprain, Harbor Ready to Compete
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Eagles tight end Brent Celek left the first practice of the year with veterans after a few plays and the team announced he has a mild right knee sprain. Celek underwent surgery in early January to repair a sports hernia and a torn labrum in his left hip.
Celek said after practice that he would be fine and walked to his car with only a slight limp.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have not yet made their next move in the pursuit of a veteran tight end. Visanthe Shiancoe visited on Tuesday, but later signed with the Patriots.
Philadelphia's been reported to have interest in Jeremy Shockey, but no visit has been scheduled yet. The 31-year-old has been on the decline and caught 37 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Backup tight end Clay Harbor caught 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown last year and until recently seemed to have little competition for his roster spot.
“You don’t take anything personal, they bring a guy in, a seasoned veteran like Shiancoe in, it just makes you better," Harbor said. "Last year Donald Lee came in. We’ve had plenty of veteran guys in here. It just pushes you, it makes you a better player and it helps you to improve.”
Harbor said he's been working hard to improve his hands over the offseason and enters 2012 with a lot of confidence. Now his goal is to shine in practice in order to get new opportunities.
"I probably had about 15 balls thrown to me all year, I feel like I had a decent season but I do need to improve – show the coaches that I can do more things and gain their trust a little more and maybe be a bigger part of the offense," Harbor said.
It's tough to read the Eagles intent if they do bring in another receiving tight end. Head coach Andy Reid gave about 15 percent more snaps to tight ends last year than he had from 2008 to 2010, including more double tight end sets.
“You see the trend, there’s a lot of two tight end sets going on out there and teams are being successful with it," said Harbor. "Tight ends can be a real matchup problem, blocking and receiving. You can really take advantage of having a linebacker on ‘em in the pass game, or in the run game if they try to put a defensive back on you, you can really physically outman them.”
For the Eagles, though, the issue becomes which talented playmaker to take off of the field. It's rare to see a two tight end set without a running back, which means it comes down to a second tight end or a third wide receiver.
"It’s probably Jason Avant or me on the field," Harbor said. "With a guy as good as him, as good a slot receiver, most teams don’t have a guy as seasoned and great.”
Harbor's taking a business-like approach to the situation, even if things don't work out with the Eagles.
"Either way it helps you grow as a player and if you do things right, if things don’t work out with a certain team and you’re a good player, you’ll end up somewhere else," Harbor said.
Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM. Follow him on Twitter.