LeSean McCoy returns to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday as a member of the Buffalo Bills, and once again Eagles fans will juggle the love they've had for a great player here against the gameday intensity directed against an opposing player. It's not the first time we've had this kind of drama.
Over the seasons, as players have been traded or have signed with other teams, they've come back in opposing uniforms to alter the balance of an always-emotional gameday experience. Think about Terrell Owens and the day he returned to South Philadelphia as a Dallas Cowboy, Brian Dawkins when he came back to Lincoln Financial Field as a Bronco, Donovan McNabb when he returned as a Washington Redskin and so on. Big moments. Emotional times. Great drama. Let's take a look back at some of those times when the Eagles we loved so much changed uniforms and challenged our hearts.
TERRELL OWENS RETURNS AS A COWBOY IN 2006
An Eagle for two seasons, Terrell Owens was released by the Eagles after the 2005 season and found 25 million reasons to sign with Dallas. Given the enormous popularity Owens generated in his first season as an Eagle and the 180-degree turn he took in 2005, leading to his release, Owens' return with Dallas was as anticipated as any game that season.
It didn't disappoint. Owens was a non-factor in the game with three receptions and 45 yards, and he was loudly booed every time the fans had a chance. The same fans who serenaded Owens when he played here in 2004 jumped all over him in his return. Owens was clearly agitated, frustrated and fed up with quarterback Drew Bledsoe in a very emotional late-Sunday afternoon game.
The Eagles won the showdown 38-24. It was a fantastic football game, clinched when cornerback Lito Sheppard returned a Bledsoe pass 102 yards for a touchdown and the final points in the closing minute of the game.
Donovan McNabb threw touchdown passes to Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett on his way to 354 passing yards as the Eagles upped their record to 4-1. Owens ran off the field screaming, and one unnamed stadium worker reportedly said Owens complained about his lack of action. Who knows what he really said? The game was high drama from start to finish, one of the best ever played at Lincoln Financial Field.
BRIAN DAWKINS: AN OVATION, AND THEN A WIN OVER DENVER
So emotional was his return to Philadelphia that safety Brian Dawkins did not take part in the pre-game warmups at Lincoln Financial Field on December 27, 2009. But when he was introduced -- the players were introduced individually that season -- Dawkins was the final member of the Broncos' defense on the field and he went through his normal crazy gyrations as the Eagles fans showed their love. It was a remarkable show of support for No. 20.
Once the game began, it didn't go quite as well for Dawkins. He blamed himself for a blown assignment on a McNabb touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek. Earlier, Dawkins was penalized in pass coverage, but the Eagles ended the drive with a turnover.
The Eagles won the game, 30-27. After it was over, the players gathered in the prayer circle and many former teammates hugged Dawkins and the fans stayed around to cheer and clap and say goodbye.
"It's just real, real nerve-racking," Dawkins said. "I've been in a lot of big games before. I was just trying to control my emotions. It was real tough for this game, mainly because we needed this game so bad."
DONOVAN McNABB AS A WASHINGTON REDSKIN
How would the fans react? Donovan McNabb played for the Eagles for 11 seasons, from 1999-2009 and set virtually every franchise record for a quarterback, took the team to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl and did the right things on and off the field.
Then the Eagles traded him to NFC East rival Washington and, well, it got a little crazy. McNabb instantly became the enemy and his October 2 return in 2010 was hugely anticipated. The fans showed their class and their passion, largely cheering McNabb as he was introduced before the game.
"You realize you spent 11 years here and I knew it was coming," McNabb said of the greeting, which he said made him happy. "I didn't expect them to cheer the whole game, that wouldn't be right. I put on the uniform and I knew I was an opponent today."
As for the game, it was an ugly one. Washington beat Philadelphia, 17-12. McNabb completed only eight passes for a total of 125 yards, but Washington won and, well, by the end of the game the fans were unhappy about the Eagles' offense, or lack thereof, and directed their venom toward the home team.
All in all, it was a celebration for McNabb. For the fans who treated McNabb so well upon his introduction, it was a bitter defeat and an unsatisfying afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
ANDY REID ON THE OTHER SIDELINE
The Kansas City Chiefs ran onto the field and the Eagles fans booed. But then there was the head coach, and with an army of cameras trained on him, Andy Reid walked onto the field prior to the September 19, 2013 game and the fans reversed course. They rose and gave Reid, the Eagles' head coach for 14 seasons, a long, loud ovation.
"I appreciate the fans and the support they gave me," Reid said. "That was kind of them."
And that was it. No major fanfare. No theatrics. Just a lousy game for the Eagles, who fell to Reid's Chiefs, 26-16. It was Reid's first season in Kansas City and Chip Kelly's first season in Philadelphia. Both teams ended up in the playoffs, and both teams lost in the first round of the postseason on the same day.
DeSEAN JACKSON COMES BACK AND EMOTIONS FLARE
This was not a friendly afternoon. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, in his return to Philadelphia after the Eagles released him in the offseason, wouldn't even use the word "Eagles" after the September 20, 2014 game at Lincoln Financial Field. He wasn't happy. And he came to put on a show.
Jackson shoved safety Malcolm Jenkins early in the game. He caught an 81-yard touchdown pass, backpedaling into the end zone, flapping his wings, Eagles style, in the end zone after the score and then swung his right leg with a kick move. Jackson caught five passes for 117 yards and the touchdown, but the Eagles won 37-34 in a game marred by a brawl that, interestingly, had nothing to do with Jackson.
Oh, there was some pushing and shoving involving Jackson. He took a big hit from Jenkins and got up and put two hands on Jenkins' facemask. Safety Nate Allen gave a retaliatory shove and was penalized.
Jackson made a catch good for a first down and then danced and pranced. It was all good theater and it was a great game and, by the way, Jackson returns on December 26 when Washington comes to town.
For now, though, the focus is on McCoy and his return. The players have been asked about it all week and their biggest concern is containing a player who is the leading rusher in franchise history who has been outstanding since recovering from an early-season hamstring injury.
Drama? Sure, for the fans and the media. It's been that kind of week. Once the whistle blows, however, the task is to beat Buffalo and continue the playoff push. In the end, that's all that really matters. The rest of it is just fun.