GREEN BAY, WIS. – As he begins his 41st season as The Voice of the Philadelphia Eagles, Merrill Reese is eagerly drumming his fingers and bouncing his knees as he sits in the lobby of the team hotel in Green Bay. The team has just touched down in preparation for Thursday's preseason opener against the Packers, and Reese, of course, isn't interested in hiding his enthusiasm.
"I love it. I love it. I absolutely love it," Reese said. "I'm excited about every year, but I think there is a little extra excitement this year, because I anticipate a really good season. Last year at this time, we didn't know what was going to happen, that the Eagles were going to make such a dramatic move by trading Sam Bradford and promoting Carson Wentz to the starting role at quarterback. There were so many question marks last year.
"This year, I look at Carson Wentz and I don't see a second-year quarterback. I look at a quarterback who looks a veteran. That doesn't mean he's going to not continue to grow, because he is going to improve and gain experience. I believe that in the next three years Carson will be a top-five quarterback in this league. I do believe, though, that Carson is ready to win now. The Eagles have given him weapons. They've taken a wide receiver department that was considered marginal at best and they've made it a strength. They've added to the offensive line. I'm interested to see Chance Warmack working again with coach Jeff Stoutland.
"I want to see the running backs. I don't know how much LeGarrette Blount will play in this game, but he's a sledgehammer this team hasn't had in many, many years. There are many reasons to feel optimistic."
Reese had a memorable 2016, his 40th as The Voice. He was great, as usual, working with Mike Quick in the radio booth. And on a personal level, Reese was inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame, a night that he will always cherish.
"It was another special year," he said, "as they all are. Every game means so much to me."
Reese says the offense, at this point, "has fewer question marks" than the defense in the preseason and he, like all of us, will be intensely watching the cornerback position. Who emerges among a young group? Third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas is one of the rookies who is on his first NFL road trip, who brought the chicken on the flight for the veterans, who suits up at Lambeau Field under, as they say, the bright lights for the first time.
's name – "It only took until Week 16 to get it right last year," Reese says, laughing – and none of the new names to the roster are tongue twisters.
Reese is ready. His booming voice lights up our radios to kick off the season, the perfect crossover into the fall that we've all been spoiled to enjoy for 40 seasons.
"I love it so much," Reese said. "The season is here. I couldn't be more excited."