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Beast Exclusive: The Andy Reid interview

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Eagles coach Andy Reid refuses to let all the setbacks during the first two weeks of training camp get him down. In Monday's morning session, two more Eagles, Trent Cole and Kevin Kolb, had to leave the field with injuries. He's already lost Stewart Bradley for the season, and starting right tackle Shawn Andrews is out indefinitely with an injured back.

Still, Reid looked as content Monday as I've ever seen him. He also looks a lot thinner after losing somewhere close to 75 pounds on a Medifast diet that was inspired by Maryland's famously large football coach, Ralph Friedgen. I asked him if he still enjoyed training camp as much as he did when he took over 11 years ago.

"I love it. I love it," he said.

And he said all the adversity that has come the Eagles' way so far in camp hasn't dampened his spirits. Reid admitted that he wanted to see more "continuity" on the offensive line, but he said the fact that players such as Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles have started games in the past makes him feel better about things.

Reid's demeanor when I brought up Shawn Andrews suggests to me that he's not all that optimistic about him returning any time soon. He said he doesn't have a good idea when the right tackle will return, and on Sunday, he told reporters that Andrews' status for the regular season opener was still in doubt.

"It's his back muscle," said Reid. "We'll calm it down and go from there. I can't tell you when he'll be ready."

What Reid knows is that a banged up offensive line could neutralize a potentially explosive offense. He acknowledged the Eagles had assembled "a lot of talent" on offense. Many of you wanted to know how much progress rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin's making, so I asked Reid that very thing.

"He's intelligent," Reid said of Maclin. "He's got good size and strength and it looks like he wants to be a good player. He's going to have to learn the schemes, but he's a quick learner."

Reid was once an assistant coach at Missouri, but it's not like they were running the spread offense in those days. We talked about how difficult it is for a receiver to make the transition from the spread to the Eagles' West Coast offense.

"Obviously, the closer the [college] system is to what we do, the better chance there is to learn the offense," Reid said. "But if you're willing to work at it, [the transition] can take place fairly quickly."

As a fan of Big 12 football (particularly the Waco representative), I was curious whether Reid thinks the spread offense would work in the NFL.

"Well, the quarterback has to take some hits in that offense to make it work," Reid said. "And the passing part of it, we already do a lot of this stuff. As a coach, you'd just hate to see the quarterback get that banged up. Some of these [college] guys are tough hombres."

I also asked Reid if he's still coming to terms with the fact that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's not around. I was curious if he still has moments where he wants to ask Johnson a question and it sort of hits him what's happened.

"No, we're not in the same situation that people who didn't go through the whole process [of Johnson's illness] were in," said Reid. "There was a transition that took place, and we're moving along with that."

Reid did say that it really started to hit home with him when he was at the Pro Bowl without Johnson.

"He's what every coach wants to be," Reid said of Johnson. "He's a grandfather. And he was the best grandfather."

Regarding the rash of injuries in camp, I asked Reid if he ever stopped and said, 'Am I doing something wrong here?'"

"Most of those things happened in thud drills," said Reid, referring to mostly non-contact drills. "I don't get caught up in all that stuff. You're sad for the person who goes through it, but on the other hand, you have to expect these things. Let's go play football."

So what do you think of the NFC East this season?

"The last three years the NFC East has been phenomenal," he said. "It's the most competitive it's been in a long time."

Reid also talked about the loss of an emotional leader such as safety Brian Dawkins. He's not worried about other guys on the defense assuming that role.

"I think we've got good leadership on defense," he said. "We'll just sort of let their personalities show when they play. The whole defensive front are great leaders. Mike Patterson, Darren Howard... and [linebacker] Joe Mays came on as a rookie. And you have Omar Gaither to sort of get you going."

Reid said the fact that Johnson did a "great job of cultivating young talent" is one of the reasons he's not going to panic about injuries.

One last thing: What is different about Donovan McNabb today than, say, three years ago?

"You just get a better feel for the offense," said Reid. "He's seen it all. He's able to take you through the whole package. He's a good player."

OK, I have to race back for special teams practice. I have interviews with LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek and Maclin to share with you over the next couple days. And special thanks to Deja Brew in downtown Bethlehem for providing my workspace this afternoon.