In art­ful style, Ea­gles cel­e­brate jour­ney that’s ‘not done yet’

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - SPORTS - By Matthew De Ge­orge mde­ge­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » Even be­fore Ja­son Kelce took to the mi­cro­phone, dressed like a Mum­mer’s se­quined mashup of a swami and a mata­dor, to call the haters on the car­pet, the past loomed large on the steps of the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art Thurs­day.

The Ea­gles cen­ter dragged it out of the sub­text and into the lime­light, go­ing down the ros­ter and list­ing the flaws that con­trib­uted to this group of foot­ball play­ers amass­ing in Philadel­phia. Pep­pered with ex­ple­tives, through a hoarse voice that went nearly silent in his apoplec­tic re­call of Mike Lom­bardi’s now in­fa­mous dec­la­ra­tion of Doug Ped­er­son as the NFL’s worst coach, Kelce high­lighted the cracks that made the Ea­gles so per­fectly im­per­fect. He held a spe­cial place in his five-minute speech for Howie Rose­man, whose de­mo­tion and re-as­cent to di­rect­ing foot­ball oper­a­tions set the tone for re­silience that has epit­o­mized the Ea­gles’ Su­per Bowl run.

But as of­ten as the world cham­pion Birds dipped into their past Thurs­day af­ter­noon, they also cast a glance to­ward the fu­ture. And no one was more un­equiv­o­cal than the guy who caught the touch­down that made the dif­fer­ence in Su­per Bowl LII.

“I prom­ise this ain’t go­ing to be the last time we’re par­ty­ing on Broad Street,” tight end Zach Ertz said.

The con­ver­gence of past and present wasn’t lim­ited to the mil­lions lin­ing the pa­rade route Thurs­day, those who waited so long for the Ea­gles’ first Su­per Bowl ti­tle and who car­ried the sen­ti­men­tal lore of so many lost friends and rel­a­tives who didn’t sur­vive long enough to see the day. The re­spect for Ea­gles of the past who never sum­mited the Su­per Bowl moun­tain was ob­vi­ous, from owner Jef­frey Lurie’s thanks to the many for­mer play­ers in ex­is­tence to the bois­ter­ous ova­tion lav­ished on newly elected Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins. The cur­rent crop of Ea­gles re­flected that ven­er­a­tion in their wardrobe pref­er­ences, with Ja­son Peters (Dawkins), Brent Celek (Harold Carmichael) and Fletcher Cox (Jerome Brown) sport­ing vin­tage jer­seys.

Kelce brought those mes­sages into the near past, rat­tling off the laun­dry list of knocks on just about every­one join­ing him on the stage, him­self (too small, the pun­dits said) and Lane John­son (“can’t lay off the juice”) most hi­lar­i­ously in­cluded. The point was how per­va­sive the un­der­dog men­tal­ity was for every­one on the team, from a nine-time Pro-Bowler like Peters that some deemed too old to a coach like Ped­er­son that many ad­judged too in­ex­pe­ri­enced.

“You know what an un­der­dog is? It’s a hun­gry dog,” Kelce said. “And we’ve had this in our build­ing for five years. It’s a quote in the old locker room that has stood on the wall for the last five years: ‘Hun­gry dogs run faster.’ And that’s this team.”

As this team moves for­ward, it ap­pears to be a group not

sated by a sin­gle cham­pi­onship, even one 57 years in the mak­ing, nor one built for a sin­gu­lar run at the Su­per Bowl. Be­yond the sud­den ques­tions about their quar­ter­back po­si­tion borne of an abun­dance of op­tions, the club has smartly spent the 2017 sea­son so­lid­i­fy­ing its long-term core, with deals for fran­chise an­chors like Cox, Ertz, Bran­don Gra­ham, Al­shon Jef­frey, Timmy Jerni­gan, Mal­colm Jenk­ins, Kelce and oth­ers. The back­field of Car­son Wentz and Jay Ajayi has room to grow to­gether, and the team still has a first-round tal­ent in Sid­ney Jones stowed away from last year to bol­ster the ranks.

It’s not, then, idle chest­thump­ing when Lurie de­clared, “We are just be­gin­ning.”

“We are not done yet,” Ped­er­son chimed in. “We have more to go. This is what we want, to be play­ing foot­ball in Fe­bru­ary.”

No one epit­o­mizes that mind­set with as much poignancy as Wentz, the quar­ter­back who be­came a spec­ta­tor to Nick Foles’ Su­per Bowl MVP per­for­mance. The ring for the sec­ond-year QB, a le­git­i­mate MVP can­di­date who set a fran­chise record for pass­ing touch­downs (33), is in­her­ently con­flict­ing, a life­long goal stopped just short un­til Foles took the ba­ton and crossed the fin­ish line.

Once Wentz’s torn knee lig­a­ments re­turn to full health, the Ea­gles have their ready­made an­ti­dote to a Su­per Bowl hang­over in a sig­nal-caller out to prove that there’s more to be won.

“I hope y’all can get used to this,” was how Wentz capped his short speech be­fore a mic drop.

It could be a piece of the past that the Ea­gles one day soon will look back on as yet an­other de­ci­sive mo­ment.

PETE BANNAN-DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Cen­ter Ja­son Kelce had the most lively speech at the Ea­gles’ cham­pi­onship celebration.

PETE BANNAN-DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The Philadel­phia Ea­gles make their way along the park­way at Eakins Oval as they head to the Philadel­phia Art Mu­seum for the cham­pi­onship celebration.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Ea­gles play­ers Fletcher Cox and Chris Long wave to fans dur­ing their Vic­tory Pa­rade on Fe­bru­ary 8.

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