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New Eagles Settle In Off The Field, Too

Posted May 13, 2015

Brad Jones is keeping it simple. When he isn't learning the Eagles' defensive playbook, or working at the NovaCare Complex or sustaining on the basics of life, he's plotting his next move ...

Brad Jones is keeping it simple. When he isn't learning the Eagles' defensive playbook, or working at the NovaCare Complex or sustaining on the basics of life, he's plotting his next move.

"I am in a hotel. I am living out of a suitcase, so technically that makes me homeless," he says. "I have my eye on some places to rent, and that will happen. But right now it's very basic. My needs are few. I am a guy who believes in owning only a few things. I believe that no one should have more clothes than fit in one suitcase. I'm a firm believer in that, actually. Any more than that and I can just toss it away.

"So, moving for me is fairly easy. I have a suitcase with maybe six outfits in it and I would label the style, because I live in San Diego in the offseason, 'professional beach bum.' "

Jones laughs easily, and he has that kind of take-it-as-it-comes attitude that makes a professional transition more successful. After six seasons in Green Bay, Jones was released and then signed with the Eagles.

He packed up his worldly possessions -- in this case, his suitcase -- and made the move to Philadelphia.

And a new football life begins.

When a player changes teams, he changes everything. He has to learn a new system. He has to fit into a new culture. He has to learn about new coaches and earn their trust. He also has to pick up and move his entire world to a new city, and many times that involves a wife and children.

The Eagles have 11 NFL veterans on the roster who weren't here last season. And whether it's Sam Bradford or DeMarco Murray or Tim Tebow or Walter Thurmond or E.J. Biggers or Brad Jones (Ryan Mathews, Seyi Ajirotutu, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso and Miles Austin are the others), all face the same challenges: to make a smooth transition requires an open mind, flexibility, a capacity to travel light and a smart real estate manager.

"It's kind of straightforward, and maybe the most important thing is understanding how the business works," Thurmond said. "If you're a younger guy and it happens suddenly, it can kind of rattle you. I played for four seasons in Seattle and when it was time to move on, I understood the process. It was kind of like college for me and going into the draft. You make your visits and you hope you get drafted and have a chance to stay for four years. After that, you have to keep an open mind and understand that anything can happen."

Anything usually does happen. In Thurmond's case, he signed a one-year contract with the New York Giants after helping Seattle win the Super Bowl in the 2013 season. Thurmond suffered a torn pectoral muscle early in the '14 season and went on Injured Reserve and became an unrestricted free agent after the year.

He's an Eagle on another one-year contract. Thurmond intends to make the most of 2015 to create favorable options for the future.

"There's always uncertainty," he said. "I mean, this is the National Football League. I'm here and all I've really got with me is my car, a couple pairs of jeans and, really, not much else. Most of my stuff is still packed up in my place I rent in New Jersey. I went up there recently and did my laundry. I'm just waiting to get my place to rent in Philly."

The Eagles are Biggers' third team in seven seasons -- four in Tampa Bay and two in Washington. He owns a home in Miami and "travels light" for the NFL season. If he needs a couch, he rents it. Living quarters are rented. Directions to and from the team's training facility are down stone cold immediately.

"I'm big on asking directions," Biggers said. "I like to research where I need to go, or I'll follow somebody. I moved to Jersey and dialed in the GPS and found the way here to the office and now I'm good.

"Other than knowing where you have to be and when you have to be there, I'm not going to take too many chances. I will get lost driving. That's just how I am. That's how I learn how to get around. I've seen the Liberty Bell. I went to an Arena Football League game. I've been downtown. It's not too hard, actually."

Running back Mathews and wide receiver Ajirotutu are best friends and have been for years, so they've lived the experience of playing in San Diego to joining the Eagles as a tandem. Ajirotutu has a wife and two daughters who will join him in August when he's settled in a more family-friendly living environment.

"It's really all about football when you move to a new team," Ajirotutu said. "Over time you get to know the area, but early on you want to fit in the locker room and learn your responsibilities. It's a job. It's a profession. You have to handle the move and the new surroundings. It's your new family."

Maybe the easiest part of the move is how a player fits into the new locker room. The brotherhood of the NFL has a long reach that sometimes dates back to high school football, and there is often Six Degrees of Knowing Someone if immediate friends aren't already there.

Biggers said that walking into the locker room here was an eye-opening moment.

"My first day here I was like, 'Locker rooms are this good?' This one is well put together. Everybody talks to each other," he said. "Every single person jokes with each other. Some locker rooms are better than others and Washington was good, but my first day here I was calling my cousins and my Mom and telling them how great it is here. That makes it a lot easier to feel good and to fit in."

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