In an effort to engage as much as possible with the fan base since the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the world in mid-March, the Eagles have held a series of virtual question-and-answer sessions with Season Ticket Members, corporate partners, and premium seatholders, including Zoom sessions with players and coaches. The fans have been pleased as the players, for example, have provided a glimpse into their offseasons and have been open and understanding answering questions from the fans.
On one of the Zoom sessions, defensive end Brandon Graham was asked about the challenges of the offseason given the country-wide quarantine and, thus, the inability to stay on a regular offseason workout routine.
"It hasn't been a big problem for us because we've just followed the plan that we've been given," Graham said. "We've had a lot of communication, starting at the top and we're all on the same page. I think that's the key. We are all going through this thing together and we'll get through it together. It's a challenge we have to overcome."
The protests and emotions that have escalated in the last two weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have not escaped the NFL and the Eagles tried to stay one step ahead of the conversation by, well, having conversations. Deep, meaningful ones that included Chairman/CEO Jeffery Lurie and Head Coach Doug Pederson addressing the team in a virtual meeting on the Microsoft Teams platform. Players were encouraged to speak, and they did, and a dialogue started.
These are the kinds of things you see from the Eagles time and time again when a conversation or an action needs to be had. Think back to how the team rallied around quarterback Donovan McNabb when radio commentator Rush Limbaugh criticized McNabb.
"Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
The Eagles, from the top of the organization to the bottom, supported McNabb and the controversy passed.
When the Eagles signed Michael Vick in 2009 after Vick served 21 months in federal prison for his part in a dogfighting ring, the team was prepared for the immediate reaction from the public and the media. The Eagles prepared for the signing, developed programs, and made sure Vick did his part by speaking weekly at schools in communities where dogfighting was a way of life. The data following Vick's signing showed that dogfighting action was reduced, that all the hard work the Eagles and Vick put into the mission paid off. And from a football and locker room standpoint, the Eagles had nothing but a great experience with Vick on the roster.
From the moment Lurie purchased the team in 1994, the directive from the top was that the Eagles were more than a football team. The top priority was, from Day 1, winning the Super Bowl on the field and hand in hand with that was winning the Super Bowl off the field every day. The Eagles have reached deep to help the underserved communities in and around Philadelphia since that time and have been, as the edict from the top was spelled out, great ambassadors for the City of Philadelphia.
That brings us to this moment, a critical snapshot in America's history. As the players remained scattered around the country virtually conducting the offseason program, Philadelphia became a center for social protest. As troubling as it has been to see day after day, it has been encouraging to see the fervor and the commitment of the peaceful protestors. When something like this happens in Philadelphia, the Eagles feel it. They are part of it. And they will be, when it is all said and done, part of the solution.
And as much as continuing the offseason is so very important, so is making sure the lines of communication remain open inside the Eagles organization for the players, the coaches, and the staff not just as George Floyd's death reverberates the country and the world, but also as the NovaCare Complex opens on Monday and the team carefully takes its first steps toward normalcy.
"It's something special to be part of this organization," cornerback Darius Slay said after the Eagles acquired him in a trade with Detroit in March. "The league knows that the Eagles are a team that takes care of its players."
The Eagles take positive steps forward every day by encouraging opinions and listening and valuing what the players think. Lurie has always said the Eagles are a collaborative effort in every phase of the organization and a partnership with the city, and because of that working mindset and given the challenges we have all faced since March, the team should be positioned nicely to thrive when Training Camp is scheduled to open later in the summer.
Leadership comes in many forms, as we've seen through the years. The Eagles' locker room has changed since January, as it does every year. Leaders leave and other players step up to fill the void. Players see the examples set by ownership and they hear the messages put forth by the coaching staff. For the Eagles, it all about having team success, and that includes everyone in the organization and, by extension, the fan base. Never before has it been more important to understand that everyone is in it together, and during these times of crises we find out about leadership and team chemistry. And even in a virtual world, the Eagles have achieved progress in developing a trusting bond because they have done what they have done since Lurie bought the team. They've worked in a side-by-side manner with trust, respect, and honesty.
These are the kinds of steps taken that not many see at this point in a unique offseason, but they will pay dividends when the team gathers as one in late July at the NovaCare Complex, knowing that the organization has painstakingly prepared the building for safety and success in 2020. It's a matter of communication, starting at the top. Lurie and Pederson and Howie Roseman want the best for the players and the team and as we've seen time and time again since 1994, the Eagles back up their daily messages with action, with honesty, and with the intention of achieving success for everyone on and off the football field.