Time to ap­pre­ci­ate all th­ese old NFL guys

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - Con­tact Bob Grotz at bob­grotz@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @bob­grotz.

If you ap­pre­ci­ate old, you’ll like this Ea­gles season. You can walk down the play­ers’ mem­ory lane al­most ev­ery week.

Last week the Ea­gles com­peted against

43-yearold Fal­cons kicker Matt Bryant, the third-old­est player in the league.

This week they op­pose Ryan Fitz­patrick, the

36-year-old in­terim quar­ter­back of the Buc­ca­neers.

Next week the Ea­gles take on the old­est cat in the league, 45-year-old kicker Adam Vi­natieri of the Colts.

Be­fore the year is done the Ea­gles will have played

39-year-old quar­ter­back Drew Brees (Saints),

39-year-old de­fen­sive end Julius Pep­pers (Pan­thers),

40-year-old cor­ner­back Ter­ence Newman (Vik­ings), and vet­er­ans Eli Man­ning, the Gi­ants’ quar­ter­back, and Rams of­fen­sive tackle Andrew Whit­worth, both 37.

In an in­dus­try where the av­er­age ca­reer is a shade over three years, what that group is do­ing is in­sane. Or is it?

The Ea­gles will start

37-year-old Ja­son Peters at tackle against the Bucs. Run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les of the Ea­gles and cor­ner­back Brent Grimes of the Bucs, both 35, won’t play this week due to in­juries, but they’ll be back this season.

“A lot of it is dura­bil­ity, avail­abil­ity and just tal­ent,” Ea­gles de­fen­sive back Mal­colm Jenk­ins said. “When you play for over 10 years in this league, you don’t do it by ac­ci­dent. Some guys are tal­ented and they’ll last for three or four years. Some guys are re­ally smart, play with tech­nique but can’t stay healthy. You’ve got to have tal­ent, you’ve got to be a smart player and you’ve got to be healthy. So, you re­spect the guys that stay that long.”

Did we men­tion that Tom Brady is 41 and thinks he can play un­til he’s 45?

Sci­en­tific train­ing meth­ods and player safety rules can­not help but lengthen ca­reers. Jenk­ins, 30, hasn’t ruled out play­ing into his

mid-30s although he kid­ded he would have only two rea­sons to do so.

“I’ll ei­ther be re­ally bored or I’m fi­nan­cially in trouble,” Jenk­ins said. “Hope­fully nei­ther of those are on the way. But I feel good at this point, to be hon­est. I love the game, I’m hav­ing fun. So, we’ll see how long I go. Es­pe­cially where the game’s go­ing. You’re not al­lowed to hit any­body. So, you save your body. I might be able to play un­til I’m 40.”

•••

Ja­son Licht worked in the Ea­gles’ front of­fice from

2003-07 be­fore mov­ing on af­ter some cre­ative dif­fer­ences over tal­ent pro­cure­ment.

Licht la­bored for the Car­di­nals, the Pa­tri­ots and Car­di­nals again be­fore be­com­ing the Bucs’ fifth GM in Jan­uary of 2014. On his watch the Bucs are 23-42 and count­ing, with just one win­ning cam­paign and zero trips to the play­offs.

The Bucs fi­nally have a quar­ter­back they can rally around in Fitz­patrick, although he’s run­ning out of juice. Licht and then-head coach Lovie Smith whiffed on the first over­all pick of the 2015 draft, se­lect­ing Jameis Win­ston.

Win­ston had is­sues long be­fore the NFL sus­pended him the first three games of the season for vi­o­lat­ing the per­sonal con­duct pol­icy. He hasn’t been the an­swer.

Fir­ing Smith and re­plac­ing him with Dirk Koet­ter ap­par­ently isn’t the an­swer, ei­ther. You won­der if Licht has run him­self out of fa­vor with the Glazer own­er­ship group.

••• Brax­ton Miller doesn’t feel like a third-round pick kicked to the curb by the team that se­lected him. The Hous­ton out­cast feels com­fort­able on the prac­tice squad of the Ea­gles.

Miller and the Ea­gles be­lieve he has a fu­ture at wide re­ceiver, his po­si­tion af­ter play­ing quar­ter­back most of his ca­reer at Ohio State. He not only knows what he does best but un­der­stands the NFL is about strength­en­ing the strengths that be­gin with “just get­ting open...

“Just beat­ing the guy that’s in front of me,” Miller added. “And I can un­der­stand de­fenses pretty well, too.”

In re­cent years the Ea­gles have be­gun ask­ing one more thing of their re­ceivers – a Philly-Philly throw­ing arm.

“I’ve seen that,” Miller said. “I could. I prob­a­bly could. But you never know. I just know I’m here and I’m happy.”

•••

The R(E)AD Zone: With

1½ sacks, Chris Long is tied for the Ea­gles’ lead with Jor­dan Hicks. With back-to­back Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship rings, the 33-year-old Long smiled when it was sug­gested he was peak­ing. “Maybe not individually but win­ning, for sure,” Long said. “I’m lucky enough be­cause for eight years it was Jan. 1, my season is over. This is a new thing. I think I’m in a con­stant state of try­ing to make up for all those years of play­ing good foot­ball on bad teams.” … Ea­gles fans, keep root­ing for the Ravens (1-1) to lose. That makes the sec­on­dround Bal­ti­more pick ac­quired in a draft day trade choicier. … The av­er­age length of a game went up a shade over 3 min­utes from last year to 3:09.33. That’s slightly longer than your ba­si­cally bor­ing MLB game.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Here he is, the old­est old guy in the NFL. Long­time Pa­tri­ots and Colts kicker Adam Vi­natieri, shown kick­ing dur­ing the pre­sea­son for In­di­anapo­lis, will be in town when the Colts pay a visit to the Ea­gles next Sun­day.

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