HOUSTON – There is arguably no player more respected in the Eagles locker room than linebacker DeMeco Ryans. On Sunday, after one of the more disheartening plays of the Eagles season, it was made clear that Ryans is just as respected by his former team and its fans.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Texans inside the red zone, defensive coordinator Bill Davis dialed up a blitz that created immediate pressure on Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Forced to release the ball, Fitzpatrick floated the ball in the direction of Ryans, the captain of the Eagles defense. The former Texan secured the interception and began to run with the ball, only to drop dramatically to the ground.
The ball fell loose and was recovered by the Texans on the 7-yard line. More importantly, though, Ryans remained on the ground while cornerback Cary Williams frantically waived for the trainers. Moments later, as Ryans was surrounded by both teammates and former teammates, a cart drove onto the field to take the linebacker off the field.
The crowd of Eagles fans and Texans fans united in their support of Ryans, cheering the linebacker as he left the field. Members of the Texans offense consoled their former teammate while the entirety of the Eagles sideline ran onto the field to give Ryans their own sendoff.
"The way he exited the field, that's DeMeco, man. That's the most consistent guy. Every day he's the same person and that just shows you even in adversity he's the same person," said linebacker Mychal Kendricks. "You can tell he has an impression on everyone around him. It's just the legacy he left behind here at Houston. To hsve guys come from the other sideline sand show respect like that, it's admirable.
It was later announced that Ryans was officially out of the game with a right ankle injury. Following the game, the tenor of the victorious locker room was muted with deference to Ryans.
"I mean it's a big blow," said safety Malcolm Jenkins. "I think from a leadership standpoint, not only for the defense but for the team, he's the heart and soul of this team and it's tough to see that happen to him. But at the same time, our season doesn't end with that and there are other guys who are going to have to step up and were ready to step up today and played well. So we'll have to continue to lean on them and I think we're confident in the guys we have. We'll figure out what packages we'll put in and move forward.
"I haven't seen (a reaction to an injury like) that, but that tells you not only what he means not only to this team but to the other team, and those are guys that, you know, the amount of respect you have for a guy like DeMeco is really unmeasurable. I think that's a good visual of it, the coaches, players, really just rallying around him trying to keep his spirits up. Just like the game doesn't stop the season won't stop either."