This is an injury – Head Coach Nick Sirianni said, speaking what everybody in the Eagles organization and anyone who has met Brandon Graham knows – that hurts in every way. Graham, in his 12th season as the longest-tenured Eagle, went down in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to San Francisco. As he was helped onto a cart and taken off the field and into the locker room, he waved to the crowd. Just as he entered the tunnel, he lowered his eyes for just an instant, understanding the severity of the moment.
Following the game, Graham departed the Eagles' locker room on crutches and in a walking boot on his left foot, as he spoke with rookie defensive end Tarron Jackson.
"You just never know. This is why I keep telling you," Graham said, "never take any of this for granted. You just keep working hard and good comes from it."
Sirianni confirmed the team's fears on Monday that Graham's injury was significant – a torn Achilles tendon that ends his 2021 season. It's a blow to the defense, of course, and it's a loss for the football team and everyone who loves the Philadelphia Eagles. That's the kind of impact Graham has made since the Eagles selected him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft – Graham transcends the tackles and the sacks and the X's and the O's.
"My heart breaks for Brandon," Sirianni said. "It's just a shame. I know it's part of this game. You hate losing the type of player we lost in Brandon. You hate losing the type of person we lost in Brandon and you hate losing the type of leader we lost in Brandon. There's a lot of different roles we all have to take over for the loss of Brandon Graham, right?
"Not only his play-time roles at the defensive end spot in setting the edge and rushing the passer and making the big plays that he makes there, but also the leadership and also he brings great energy. I still look forward to seeing that energy. He assured me he wants to be around as much as he possibly can and I want him around as much as he possibly can as he rehabs this injury. He's such an important part of this team."
In the football sense, the Eagles will look to others to fill the many roles that Graham fills – the leadership as a team captain, the upbeat and constant positive energy, the relentless work ethic, as well as the measurables on the field. But for a moment we step back and feel the pain for a man like Graham who has been an ultimate Eagle on and off the field. He is a force in the community and a role model who takes the time to shake hands and say hello – always with a smile – and bring positivity to every encounter. Graham loves the game of football, loves the Eagles organization, and the City of Philadelphia.
Graham now faces a difficult rehabilitation and he will tackle it with the same vigor he brings to the table every day. The football side of things will move forward, as they always do. Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan and Jackson and Milton Williams and the entire defensive line will pick up the slack for Graham on the field. Injuries happen in this game. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, guard Brandon Brooks and the offensive line face the same challenge as he recovers from a pec strain that will keep him out of action for the foreseeable future. Although Brooks is expected to return in 2021, this is the unfortunate side of a physical sport.