Time for party to end and work to be­gin

Ped­er­son, Ea­gles shift­ing fo­cus from Su­per Bowl to 2018 sea­son

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA » The Lom­bardi Tro­phy pa­raded down Broad Street through 700,000 fans to the Art Mu­seum.

It brought luck to the Wells Fargo Cen­ter be­fore a crit­i­cal pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball game and more re­cently ap­peared on stage at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field for a Kenny Ch­es­ney con­cert, of all things.

It’s been one noisy Su­per Bowl LII cham­pi­onship cel­e­bra­tion af­ter an­other for the Ea­gles, who de­feated the hated New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots four months ago in Min­neapolis. One end­less party af­ter an­other. Un­til Tues­day. That’s when Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son put an ex­pi­ra­tion date on the fri­vol­ity. By his cal­cu­la­tions it will be time to lock the tro­phy in the cab­i­net, put the big boy pants on and go back to work at “12:01 a.m. June 15th.”

Ea­gles mini­camp ends that af­ter­noon and the pri­vate Su­per Bowl ring cer­e­mony pre­miers that evening.

Ped­er­son isn’t try­ing to be a

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for us this sea­son, a great mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for us to sort of rip off the dog masks and no longer be the un­der­dog but now be the hunted, have the tar­get on our back.”

– Philadel­phia Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son on his team’s ap­proach as de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons.

party pooper. He bris­tled when asked when the Ea­gles would put the fun in the rearview mir­ror and move on. How could you? Thanks for stop­ping by.

“Hon­estly, af­ter the ring cer­e­mony, to me, we put that to bed, we put that to rest and we move on to 2018,” Ped­er­son said. “Lis­ten, we al­ways are go­ing to re­mem­ber. I was at two events yes­ter­day. The city is on fire. Its’ great. I love it. Fans are ex­cited and they should be. But for us we’ve got to fo­cus on 2018 and get ready for train­ing camp. When we come back July 25, in two weeks we’re play­ing a foot­ball game. That’s our fo­cus.”

Ped­er­son hadn’t ad­dressed the cham­pi­onship hoopla much un­til Tues­day, the start of the Ea­gles’ three-day mini­camp. It’s not much fun com­ing across as some grumpy bar­tender flash­ing the lights to get the at­ten­tion of pa­trons, only to tell them it’s last call.

Some­where be­tween the dou­ble-talk that Nick Foles would be the team’s start­ing quar­ter­back if the sea­son be­gan to­day, but that could change in Septem­ber if Car­son Wentz is healthy, and af­ter clar­i­fy­ing that the No. 1 goal of this, and all mini­camps is “to avoid in­jury,” Ped­er­son pro­vided an earthy, in­spi­ra­tional ex­pla­na­tion of the challenge fac­ing the Ea­gles at his Tues­day presser. It res­onated with so much im­agery you al­most wanted to copyright it.

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for us this sea­son, a great mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for us to sort of rip off the dog masks and no longer be the un­der­dog but now be the hunted, have the tar­get on our back,” Ped­er­son said. “We have to em­brace it and use it as sort of a mo­ti­va­tion to get back to that game and to do it for the guys who didn’t have an op­por­tu­nity to play in that game last year.”

Pub­licly, that’s about as good as it gets for Ped­er­son. Rip off the dog masks? It sounds like one of his pre-Su­per Bowl pep talks. Be the hunted, have the tar­get on our backs? On an in­spi­ra­tional level, that would get a nod from any warm-blooded ath­lete.

De­fend­ing a Su­per Bowl ti­tle isn’t new ter­ri­tory for Ped­er­son. He backed up Brett Favre when the Green Bay Pack­ers de­feated the Pa­tri­ots in SB XXI in the 1996 sea­son. The group reached the ti­tle game again the fol­low­ing year only to be de­feated by John El­way and the Den­ver Bron­cos, who won the first of back-to-back ti­tles. Ped­er­son has been there. His team just hasn’t done that.

Mov­ing on from the eu­pho­ria with all the Su­per Bowl re­mem­brances scat­tered through­out the No­vaCare Com­plex isn’t go­ing to be easy. You bump into at ev­ery turn.

“It’s go­ing to be part of our fab­ric, part of our his­tory here in Philadel­phia, part of the Ea­gles’ or­ga­ni­za­tion ob­vi­ously,” Ped­er­son said. “And I want guys to re­mem­ber. I think it’s about the jour­ney that we took, to see a Su­per Bowl LII logo on the wall.”

You know that line about the jour­ney be­gin­ning with the first step? Doug Ped­er­son took it Tues­day.

You could ar­gue that this is a pretty con­ve­nient time to put an end to the Su­per Bowl cel­e­bra­tions. A quick look at the events docket at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field, the venue where Ped­er­son, owner Jef­frey Lurie, Wentz and Zach Ertz, among oth­ers, re­cently marched the Lom­bardi Tro­phy around on stage at the Ch­es­ney con­cert, shows only Tay­lor Swift check­ing in be­fore the Ea­gles be­gin train­ing camp. She’s not a foot­ball fan.

That said, Ped­er­son de­serves credit for hav­ing the guts to say it’s about time to move on.

No shoes, no shirt and no prob­lems, to bor­row a Ch­es­ney tune.

Let the ti­tle de­fense be­gin.


Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son looks on dur­ing the team’s OTA prac­tice last week. Come Fri­day when the Ea­gles get their cham­pi­onship rings, it’s time for the party to end and for the team to get back to work, Ped­er­son said.

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