MARGATE - The absurd parameters of the NFL's ongoing labor dispute were on display at the Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center on Wednesday night.
Upon arriving for the JCC's inaugural "Sports Night," new Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo had to deal with an awkward situation. The invited guests for the event - which was created to help with the organization's children's scholarship fund - also included Eagles center Jamaal Jackson and defensive tackle Trevor Laws.
During the NFL lockout, coaches and players are not permitted to have contact. Castillo quickly shook hands with Jackson and Laws but then moved about five feet away to mingle with other guests while Jackson and Laws posed for pictures.
"I actually had to call a lawyer to find out if we could all be at this event at the same time," Castillo said. "He told me it was OK as long as we don't talk about football."
Asking Castillo to avoid discussing football is like asking a surfer to stay away from the ocean. During his 13 seasons as the Eagles' offensive line coach, he was known for his passionate approach to the position. That was one of the reasons coach Andy Reid made the controversial decision to name Castillo defensive coordinator to replace Sean McDermott, who was fired after last season.
But since being named to the post Feb. 2, the 51-year-old has been prohibited from talking to the defensive players since the lockout began in March, save for a brief, one-day window during the April draft when the lockout was lifted before being reinstated.
"You can tell it's killing him not being able to talk to us," Jackson said with a smile. "Juan is always about football, football, football, so I know he wants to so bad. I know he really wants to talk to Trevor and not me (about the new defense). If he talked to me, it really won't mean anything."
Except a chance to renew a friendship.
Jackson and Castillo have a bond that began in 2003, when Jackson joined the Eagles as a undrafted rookie free agent out of Delaware State. Under Castillo's guidance, Jackson became the full-time starting center in 2006. Castillo was also one of his biggest supporters when Jackson fought back from a knee injury to reclaim the starting job for the first game of last season, and he was upset when Jackson suffered a torn triceps in the opener that prompted him to miss the rest of the season.
"It's hard (to not have any contact with the players) because I haven't seen these guys in such a long time," said Castillo, who politely declined to discuss his plans for the upcoming season. "It's tough because I miss them. Jamaal even texted me and I couldn't text him back."
The lockout has affected the Eagles' players more than some on other teams.
Jackson, who will try to beat out Mike McGlynn for his old job, will have to learn a new blocking system under offensive line coach Howard Mudd.
"I know that Howard wants to be aggressive like Juan was, but we won't know exactly what that entails until we all get together," Jackson said. "I did come (to the NovaCare Complex) the one day the lockout was lifted, but then it was back on again and Howard told me I had to leave. That's where the (lack of minicamps) has hurt us. We need to get the verbage down so we're ready to rock and roll when the season gets going."
Like Jackson, Laws has been working out during the offseason at Power Train Sports Institute in Cherry Hill and has been attending unofficial practices at Memorial Sports Complex in the Marlton section of Evesham Township along with a handful of players - former quarterback Donovan McNabb was in attendance Wednesday afternoon - for the past few weeks.
But the 2008 first-round draft pick has not been able to work with Castillo or new defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
"I got to talk with Coach Washburn once, and I got the sense that we're going to be aggressive and cut loose," Laws said. "That fits my style pretty well, I think. I'm a quicker guy, and that will be better for me than having to occupy offensive linemen.
"This has been tough because we're going to have a whole new defense, a new coach, new drills, new everything. So we could have used the work (during the minincamps and organized team activities). But this is the time of the year when we usually go on vacation (before training camp) so we're not really missing much now."
Extra points: Wednesday's guest list at the Sports Night also included former Eagles owner Jerry Wolman. Wolman owned the team from 1963-69 before financial difficulties forced him to sell it to Leonard Tose for a then-record $16.1 million.
"I've always regretted selling the team," Wolman said. "I've regretted it since the day I did it. I've been an Eagles fan my whole life, and when I bought the franchise, I thought it would be with my family for the rest of my life. But I had no choice.
"I don't get to many games anymore, but I'm still an Eagles fan. My daughter, Helene, is a Redskins fan, so when the Eagles play the Redskins it gets pretty exciting around our house."
Jackson and Laws indicated that McNabb, now with Washington, didn't do much throwing Wednesday, primarily focusing on conditioning drills. Those three were among only about a half-dozen players who showed up for the workout, along with wide receiver Jason Avant, tackle Austin Howard and defensive end Juqua Parker.
"I'm just focused on working out. It's what I do in the offseason," McNabb told CSNPhilly.com. "So I was just looking forward to working with a great group of guys."
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