doing this year.” Grugier-Hill obviously would like to have his sound bite to do over. Head coach Doug Pederson wishes it hadn’t happened. He tried to defuse it during a conference call with Cowboys media. It’s an isolated event. GrugierHill is a solid citizen, a total team player and wellliked by colleagues in the locker room.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long, the Eagles’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, made the media smile Thursday when asked if GrugierHill’s outburst made their jobs easier. Then he got serious.
“It’s not something I’d say but I’ve got his back,” Long said. “It’s going to be a physical, intense football game. And at the end of the day that’s all it comes down to. I’ve got Kamu’s back. Everybody’s got each other’s back. That’s what a team’s about.”
Safety Malcolm Jenkins also is totally in the corner of Grugier-Hill. It’s not Jenkins’ style to trash talk publicly but he’s heard much worse in the heat of competition. He’s got KGH’s back.
Why Wentz dismissed the chance to stand to stand tall is a puzzler. The whole episode reminds me of the week leading up to Super Bowl 39 when outspoken Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell called out New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, saying, “I’ve got something for you, Harrison.”
Donovan McNabb left Mitchell hanging. So, did many of Mitchell’s teammates. At the end of the day, McNabb threw two interceptions to Harrison, just one completion to Mitchell and the Eagles lost, 24-21, to a very beatable Patriots team.
That was the last NFL appearance for FredEx. In the NBA Finals last year, he applauded Lebron James for sticking up when then-Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith mistakenly dribbled out the clock in a tie game. The Cavs would lose in overtime to the Golden State Warriors. Mitchell’s tweet: “I gotta respect @KingJames for standing up for his teammate. McNabb would never do that for me.”
If the Eagles lose Sunday, critics will blame it on Grugier-Hill for inciting the Cowboys. If the Eagles win, it’s probably not going to be because Grugier-Hill contributed three pick-sixes. The teams are too evenly matched.
Too often, professional athletes think they should sanitize what they say publicly out of fear of coaches or management. The confident players roll with their instincts and lead by example.
Eagles players kept it real Thursday with a locker room prank. Wide receiiver Shelton Gibson hid his face with towels and a hoodie and slipped into Grugier-Hill’s No. 54 jersey. Gibson performed the walk of shame to Grugier-Hill’s locker after practice Thursday, a mob of reporters in tow. Gibson sat down with his back to the pack, the microphones encircling him. He couldn’t stay in character, rising and walking away with a big smile while teammates shot smart phone video.
But back to Wentz. He showed courage in his second season with the Eagles when good friend Jordan Matthews was dealt to the Buffalo Bills for cornerback Ronald Darby.
“It’s one of those things where there’s the personal side of things and the football side of things,” Wentz said. “The football side of things, you’ve just got to trust what they’re doing upstairs. Ultimately, they’re the ones that make those decisions and what they think is best for the team, I’m going to be in support of 100 percent. They haven’t let me down or this team down yet. But on a personal side, it’s tough. This is my first time experiencing something like this with someone who’s one of my best friends.”
Here’s hoping Wentz gets to that place again.
If you’re the unequivocal leader of the team, the guy who’s going to lead it to championships, you can do better than this:
“I just want to say personally,” Wentz said of the Cowboys, “and as a team we have a lot of respect for them and we’re excited for this one.”