If it is a day off in the bump and grind of the NFL season, you'll generally find Eagles players taking care of their business. Some of it involves football, of course, because taking care of the body is a 24/7 demand. Much of it, though, includes community work, making a difference to those in need.
"It's been part of what I've done since I've been in the NFL and it's going to continue to be part of what is important to me," wide receiver Torrey Smith said upon signing as an unrestricted free agent in the spring. "I want to make a difference on and off the field."
The Eagles have been good on the field in 2017, winning five of their first six games. They're in first place in the NFC East with a prime-time game on Monday night against Washington. Off the field, the Eagles have been even better using the powerful NFL platform to impact lives forever.
"Living a worthwhile life and impacting, for the good, other peoples' lives," defensive end Chris Long said on Wednesday when asked what is important to him in the world. "I'm here to make a difference."
Long is making a difference, as everyone knows. He is donating all of his 2017 game checks to charity – the first six went to provide scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia and the next 10 will launch his “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” campaign.
But Long isn't the only one in the Eagles' locker room to make the effort – for no monetary reward – to improve the community. Each week the team has a community outreach effort and can always count on players like Smith, linebacker Nigel Bradham, punter Donnie Jones, linebacker Joe Walker, defensive end Steven Means, safety Rodney McLeod, linebacker Najee Goode, and defensive tackle Beau Allen to step up and donate time.
Beyond that, there is a tremendous faith-based community in the locker room that includes quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, linebacker Jordan Hicks, tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, safety Chris Maragos, wide receiver Marcus Johnson, offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, and many others.
Several players, including Wentz and safety Malcolm Jenkins, have their own nonprofit foundations designed to provide aid to those in need.
This is a good team, on and off the field.
"I think it's important to the whole of the team, meaning these are high-character guys and they're going to lead by example," head coach Doug Pederson said. "They're going to do what's needed, they're going to do what's asked, and they're going to do what's right. That's in this building (NovaCare Complex) and on the field, but outside the building and on their own time.
"They're going to handle their business and maintain their character. I think it means a lot to have a locker room full of guys who understand what it means to play in the NFL and how much of an impact they can have outside the game."
Pederson has a players' committee that he meets with on a regular basis so that he knows what's happening in the locker room, and he gives just enough leeway for the players to lead themselves. The veterans on this team understand what it means to establish roots in the community and to reach out to lend a helping hand. The younger players see that and emulate the veterans. They want to be involved. They ask for opportunities to be included in community initiatives.
Add it all up and the Eagles have a roster of high-character players. This isn't to suggest that every player is perfect because, after all, who is? This is just to say that, yes, the "good" of the Philadelphia Eagles extends far beyond the boundaries of the football field.
"A lot of players in the league use the platform the right way and I think that a lot of time we don't hear about the way players are involved beyond the game," Long said. "There are a lot of negative stories in the media, but if you dig a little deeper there are a lot of positive stories in the NFL, for sure.
"We have an awesome locker room full of great people and certainly a lot of charitably minded people who are active in their communities – a player like Malcolm Jenkins (the National Football League Players' Association's 2016 recipient of the Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award for his community work) does amazing things in the community. It's really gratifying to be part of this kind of group."
The Eagles have long placed character high on the list of needed attributes as they evaluate potential additions to the roster, so when a player like Long announces he is donating all of his game checks to philanthropic endeavors, the ripple effect in the organization is profound.
"It makes you feel proud. Proud that a player like Chris, and someone like Torrey who does so much, and Malcolm and so many players, proud that they are Eagles," Howie Roseman said. "We have a lot of good people on and off the field in this building. That comes from the top, and Jeffrey (Lurie), when he sets out his marching orders about the kind of people he wants in this organization."
Maybe this has nothing to do with football, with how the Eagles can beat Washington on Monday night. Maybe it has everything to do it with it. The goal is to win – on the field, of course, and the only goal for every team is the Super Bowl – and the Eagles know they can win every day by making the effort and reaching out into the community. They're doing it. They're walking the walk, and making a difference with everything and everyone they touch.