Scene after practice on Thursday: Tight end Brent Celek spends 15 minutes hunched over at his NovaCare Complex locker room, cell phone to his ear, conducting an interview on Sirius/XM NFL Radio. Suddenly, Celek is a household name. He is a "big deal." The national attention is here, and there is no doubt that opposing defenses are spending a lot of time preparing for No. 87 and the contributions he makes to the Eagles offense.
Want to know how well things are going for Celek these days? How about this: Nobody has asked Celek about this blocking in weeks and weeks and weeks.
It is far too early to say that Celek "has arrived," because the standard of excellence in the NFL is measured not over a handful of games, but over a number of seasons. Celek is very aware of the scales of justice in the league. He hasn't changed a thing about the way he approaches the game. Hard work is the bottom line, each and every day.
Through four games, Celek has 26 catches, 303 yards and 2 touchdowns. Should Celek continue at the same pace for the remaining three-quarters of the season, well, the numbers would be extraordinary. To even *think *of 100-plus receptions and 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns is foolhardy, and Celek is no fool.
He is a worker, a humble young man who has come a long, long way from whence he came: A fifth-round draft pick in 2007 who is one of the best tight ends prospects the Eagles have ever had.
There, I said it.
"I don't look at it that way at all," he said. "We still have 12 games left in the regular season. My goal is to play good, consistent football each and every week. This season has only just begun. I've got to play at a high level each week, and show the coaches I can do that. Really, I'm just taking it day to day."
No surprise. Celek became the starting tight end last season after the production at the position with L.J. Smith starting just wasn't there. The Eagles had seen enough of Celek from his rookie year -- 16 games, 4 starts, 16 catches and a touchdown -- to believe he had the tools to become the full-time player there. Celek exploded for 6 catches and 131 yards against Seattle last November, a game that provided a turning point in Celek's mind.
He knew right then that he could do it at this level.
"I realized from that game that I can play here. I can do it, and the next step is to do it at a consistent level. Really, that is what the league is all about," he said. "You have to bring it every day in practice and then every week in the game. A lot of guys have a big game here or there. To do it every game, every day, is what makes you a special player and that is my goal."
Celek has proven to be far more athletic than he first appeared after a fine career at Cincinnati. He showed some serious ups last week with his catch and leap over Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber, and he has been terrific in the catch-and-run phase of his young career. Celek learned the offense quickly, worked on his strength and his release off the line of scrimmage, improved his blocking and honed his route running to virtual perfection.
That 10-catch, 2-touchdown performance in the NFC Championship Game in Arizona was the clincher, of course. After that, the Eagles felt completely secure having Celek as the starter. Instead of chasing veterans in a trade or in free agency, the Eagles allowed Smith to move on and they went about the business of integrating Celek more and more into the offense.
Through four games, Celek has been a force. With teams focusing on DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin outside, Celek should command even more favorable matchups in the middle of the field as the Eagles grow one of their most exciting, talented and young core groups of pass catchers they have had in years and years and years.
"We have a lot of playmakers here, so my job is to fit in and take advantage where I can," said Celek. "The coaches do a great job of scheming and finding ways to get us open. I just do what they tell me and catch the ball. Whatever they need, I'm going to do it."
That much is abundantly clear. Celek has risen from a no-name, fifth-round draft pick to a standout tight end in a division filled with them in a very short time. The best days are still to come for the third-year man. All of the attention, all of the hoopla .. none of that matters to Celek. He doesn't pay attention.
"I stay away from it as much as I can. I don't want to hear what people have to say about me," he said.
Too bad, because right now Celek would hear a lot of compliments as he looks for another strong game in Oakland against the Raiders.
"Wins are the goal," he said. "We're going out there to win the game and get to 4-1. The other stuff doesn't matter at all to me."