There hasn't been a moment of reflection for Eagles safety Justin Evans because, frankly, he has too much going on now to look back at the journey he has taken in the NFL. A long, difficult, and now very rewarding journey.
"It's been quite a trip, for sure," said Evans, a onetime 50th overall selection in the 2017 draft by Tampa Bay who lost three full seasons to foot and Achilles tendon injuries. "I'm thankful to be here, glad to be playing, and enjoying every minute of it."
The Eagles signed Evans in free agency, a one-year deal that appeared to be a low-risk, high-reward kind of deal. It's working out that way both for the Eagles and for Evans, who has started both games and has been around the football on defense and a playmaker on special teams.
Evans has been quietly returning to the form he showed at Texas A&M and early in his time with Tampa Bay, for whom he started 11 games as a rookie and all 10 games in 2018 before suffering a season-ending toe injury. Rangy, an aggressive tackler, and instinctive, Evans emerged late in the summer as a potential starter in the secondary, one that entered the offseason knowing it would feature two new starters at safety.
"I just looked at it like I do every day here. I just want to play well, and do the best I can and contribute to the defense," Evans. "I got in the playbook and learned the defense. I feel great out there so it was just a matter of being consistent and raising my level of play.
"Whatever my role is, I'm here to win football games."
Evans returns to Tampa Bay for Monday's game a success story after four seasons there and then suiting up for the Saints in 2022, when he played in 15 games with four starts. The Eagles see Evans as a player who is contributing at a high level on a defense that has had quite a bit of change since the 2022 season.
Evans has been a bright spot and an amazing story.
"A lot of hard work and blessing," Evans said. "I never doubted that I would make it back. I love the game. I love the challenge of being on the field and winning and that's why I'm here. I'm smiling all the time out there. It feels great to be playing."
Evans is part of a secondary that on Monday night must contend with the likes of star wide receiver Mike Evans (12 receptions, 237 yards, and two touchdowns) and Chris Godwin (10 receptions, 109 yards). Both are outstanding receivers who will test the Eagles.
Evans is up for the challenge. He's in his routine now, going week to week and playing at a high level when it all clicks the right way.
All of those long hours of working in the dark, putting in the time, keeping the big goal in mind, it was all worth it for Justin Evans.
"Seems like a long time and it was, but I always kept my return in mind," he said. "That was always the goal and here I am, doing what I love to do."