Russell Shepard is probably as happy as anyone to be through the draft process and onto an NFL practice field.
Not only did the LSU wide receiver go undrafted in late April, but got off on the wrong foot with the team that eventually scooped him up — the Eagles — by telling a Louisiana radio station that he signed a deal with Philadelphia while the draft was still ongoing. Teams are not permitted to negotiate a contract until the draft concludes. A league representative told Birds 24/7 that they were looking into the situation to determine the facts. The Eagles had to put out a statement denying Shepard’s claims.
It wasn’t an ideal first impression.
“I just made a mistake,” said Shepard following the first day of rookie minicamp. “It was something that I was speaking too fast. One word changed the whole thing of it. But I learned from it and I am going to grow from it.”
Did he get a talking to from Chip Kelly?
“Actually, no. I didn’t have a conversation with anybody,” said Shepard. “They talked to my agent that next day and they told me what I needed to do. It was just kind of (slaps his wrist), ‘Don’t do it again.’”
An NFL spokesman, when asked if the league had reached a conclusion on the matter, only responded: “There is nothing further we plan to say.”
With that bumpy start in the rear-view the focus turns to what Shepard can offer the Eagles. The 6-1, 195-pounder went to LSU as a dual-threat quarterback and saw time at multiple positions. He finished his career with 733 rushing yards and 565 receiving yards on 58 catches. Kelly, who recruited Shepard out of high school, is clearly drawn to versatile players.
“It’s amazing because I get to play a little bit of everything in this scheme,” said Shepard. “From slot to outside to running back. An opportunity for me to touch the ball in different ways. It’s a very diverse offense — very cool.”
During that regrettable radio interview, Shepard also suggested that the Eagles were already getting packages ready for him to take advantage of his skill set. While that seems like a stretch, there is opportunity for guys like Shepard at the dawn of a new era.
“[Kelly] told us that everybody is going to get an opportunity. If you can play football — whether you’re a first-round draft pick or a guy that’s getting a tryout — you’re going to get a chance to play football out here if you can play,” he said. “That was a part of the reason why I came here.”
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