While summer hurries to scribble in its final, busy chapters, it is this fall's prologue that has fans, players and coaches revved and ready to go.Philadelphia Eagles football is back.

The 2008 season kicks off on Sept. 7 with a home game against the St. Louis Rams, but the action has already begun on the fields at Lehigh University, home of Eagles Training Camp, in Bethlehem.

The 3,000-plus fans in daily attendance at training camp, which wrapped up earlier this week, have faithfully treated each play and practice rep as the real thing, groaning and cheering at every dropped pass and touchdown grab.

Rare, but always entertaining, costumed fanatics have arrived to incite the crowds, sporting green armor and wielding tin-foil Lombardi Trophies.

The players are happy to be back, too.

"I'm having a good time with the fans," free safety Brian Dawkins said in a Webcast press conference last week. "I'm very excited about this yearI'm really jacked up."

And, after a mediocre 8-8 2007 campaign, there is plenty to look forward to.

"The potential for us to make plays in the secondary, with the talent we have, is tremendous," Dawkins added.

That talent includes one of, if not the best, trio of cornerbacks in the league with pro-bowler Asante Samuel (acquired in free agency from the New England Patriots), pro-bowler Lito Sheppard and hard-hitting Sheldon Brown.

On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Donovan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook return to lead a unit that ranked sixth in total offense last year. Hopes are high that the success generated in the final three games of last season will help carry over into early wins in 2008.

"Offensively, I think our rhythm iswhere we need it to be right now," McNabb said during a press conference.

That being said, camp has still thrown in a few wrinkles, including some relatively serious injuries, two contract disputes with key players Brian Westbrook and Lito Sheppard, and the unusual absence of pro bowl guard Shawn Andrews.

Second-year defensive end Victor Abiamiri is expected to miss significant time with a wrist injury, while Asante Samuel and rookie wide receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson continue to fight off nagging hamstring problems.

"He (Jackson) needs to get healthy and get back out there," head coach Andy Reid told reporters. "This is a challenge for wide receivers, that first year, and you have to push yourself through these things, so that's what he's working on right now."

"We feel pretty good about this season," Dawkins said. "I know I feel read good about this season."

And the great thing is: there's only one month left before Dawkins & Company get to prove it.

Peter Kerr is a freelance writer for The Saucon News. He can be contacted via e-mail at jpopichak@berksmontnews.com

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