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Despite COVID-19, Eagles find a way to connect with patients at CHOP

Interviewers typically ask Eagles players about the upcoming game or the state of the team.

But the questions last Tuesday had a little bit of a different tone.

Jordan Mailata, Joe Ostman, Alex Singleton, Nate Sudfeld, and Greg Ward were guests on the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's The Talent Series. In a typical year, the Eagles will make several visits to CHOP to spend time with the patients, but the interaction is a little bit different due to COVID-19. The Talent Series connects patients with various types of entertainers through a teleconference. Patients can check in from their hospital beds and emcees help moderate the discussion. Head Coach Doug Pederson was the first guest on The Talent Series earlier this year.

All five Eagles players who joined the teleconference on Tuesday are familiar with CHOP as they visited the hospital in December shortly after the Eagles clinched the NFC East title.

Some of the questions from the patients were about how each player got to the NFL. Ward spent the early part of 2019 on the team's practice squad, but was a vital contributor in the four-game win streak that secured the division title. He not only earned a spot on the 53-man roster out of Training Camp this year, but he is also the Eagles' starting slot receiver.

"My whole mindset was not to look at the numbers. Don't look at who's already there, just focus on myself and controlling what I can control and that's playing, putting good things on film," said Ward. "I think that's my main focus right now, just continuing to stay consistent and stay focused and continue to work hard."

Ward and Sudfeld talked about how they race each morning to see who will be the first to arrive at the team's training facility, the NovaCare Complex, for work. It's that friendly competition, Singleton says, that brings the best out of each other.

"We just push each other to be better every single day. I think, personally, competing against our team is the hardest competition we have all year. To be able to have that every single day, we push each other not only on the field, we push each other in the weight room and to even be better people and better friends," Singleton said.

"We push each other in all aspects of life, including on the field. I think that's why competing against each other makes us stronger."

Not all of the questions were serious. Far from it. The patients asked the players what they like to do away from the football field. Watching Netflix was a popular answer, but Ostman, a native of St. Ignace, Michigan, said he likes to go ice fishing, while Sudfeld plays golf and the piano. The players also listed their favorite sports movies (Friday Night Lights, Miracle, and Remember the Titans were popular picks) and pre-game rituals. Music is a relevant part of most players' pre-game routines, but it's the song that Singleton mentioned that drew curious glares. He's listened to Jethro Tull's "Bungle in the Jungle" before games since the fifth grade. Mailata, who held up funny meme cards to entertain the children during the teleconference, talked about his move from Australia to the United States to play a whole new sport.

"We're all from different places and different walks of life," Sudfeld said, "but we all have the same goal when we're in the locker room. Motivation is not super hard for a lot of guys because they have this desire inside of them to be great so it's not as much motivating other guys as much as competing and working hard against each other."

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