WOODLAWN, Md. -- Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and his staff have always had pride in the work they do. But when the crew found out that they would be honored as the NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year by the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, there was an added level of satisfaction.
"To win an award that's voted on by your peers is one of the greatest accomplishments for us," said Burkholder, on hand at the Ed Block Courage Award banquet to receive the award with his staff. "We're certainly not done. We're right in the middle of this thing. I have a great staff that's trying to continue to learn, so we're not satisfied right now. We still have a couple things we can do to get better."
For Burkholder, the award validates the work done by the entire staff, from the three assistant athletic trainers to his team of trusted doctors.
"People don't understand what they bring to the table, what they do for our players," Burkholder said. Assistant athletic trainers "Chris Peduzzi, Steve Condon and Joe O'Pella and then Peter DeLuca, Gary Dorshimer, Paul Marchetto, Matt Pepe, they're my main four doctors, along with Frank Brady our chiropractor. That group of people, the service that they provide to our players, I think is why we won the award. Our players said to other people in the league, look these people go out of their way to take care of us. They give us the best medical coverage and medical care, so I think that came back to the athletic training staff. I'm humbled to kind of lead that group and I'm thrilled that I get to work with those guys."
Peduzzi, Condon and O'Pella echoed the sentiment that the award means so much because it comes from their peers. They also emphasized the close-knit nature of the staff.
"It's like anything in football, you're together a lot," said Peduzzi, who is in his 12th season with the Eagles. "We get along so well, our families all spend time together and do things together ... When you're together (as much as we are), you have to get along because you become like a family away from home."
"We have a staff that, we get along well, both on the job and off," agreed Condon, who is in his fifth season with the Eagles after a long run as a basketball trainer. "It's something that we work on a lot too, the communication that we have to have. For example, on a game day, who has what responsibilities, who goes out on the field, who gets a hold of the ambulance. We actually work on that stuff ahead of time, so it doesn't happen by accident."
Meanwhile, after his first season working for the Eagles full-time, O'Pella feels like a player winning a Super Bowl as a rookie. But because of the welcoming nature of the rest of the staff, he's felt right at home from the get-go.
"It hasn't been as tough as I thought it would be. It's a lot of fun. This is a dream job if you're going to be a trainer, be in the NFL, so I got here and I got thrown into it right away and I kind of just kept running with it," O'Pella said. "Rick put it out there, (this award) goes back to a whole bunch of staffs that came before us and I kind of just swooped in at the right time. It's definitely an honor to be a part of this group of four guys."
Rest assured, however, that Burkholder and crew won't rest on their laurels just because of the newly acquired hardware.
"We can keep taking classes and we can keep listening to our players and coaches," Burkholder said. "Sometimes when you get older, and I'm getting on the end of it, you stop listening to people. And if I do that, I would hope that (owners Jeffrey and Christina Lurie) and (president Joe Banner) and (head coach Andy Reid) would kick me out the door. I want to listen to everybody, get feedback from our coaches, get feedback from our players, get feedback from my athletic trainers on my staff, my doctors, and keep getting better."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 9:45 p.m., March 8