Philadelphia Eagles News

Players Reflect On Kelly's Tenure

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When leaving the NovaCare Complex following Tuesday's training session, none of the Eagles' players had any inkling of what was about to come.

Quarterback Sam Bradford recalled a hard day of practice, followed by a short breakdown - a schedule they followed on any given day. He and his teammates felt positive about the work they'd put in that day as they look to end 2015 on a positive note.

However, as they exited the field, never once did it cross their minds that the training session would be their last with Chip Kelly as head coach.

Once the news broke at 7:12 PM, it spread like wildfire. Linebacker Brandon Graham got a phone call from his dad. Linebacker Connor Barwin checked his phone and saw a notification from the Eagles' app. Running back Kenjon Barner's parents FaceTimed him. Tackle Lane Johnson received a text from a teammate.

The common thread among them all was that Kelly's release, and its timing, came as a complete shock.

"I knew something was going to happen, but I didn't think it was going to be this dramatic, especially at this time during the season, last week of the season," Graham said. "But, I understand why."

The team was not in the dark for long, as it met with CEO and Chairman Jeffrey Lurie early Wednesday morning for a players-only meeting. Following practice Wednesday, the players expressed their understanding of Lurie's decision. Now, the focus has shifted to the future of this franchise, but first each and every person on the team wanted to recognize the good Kelly did during his tenure in Philadelphia and the achievements they accomplished together.

"Obviously, I owe a lot of debt to Chip," tight end Zach Ertz said. "He brought me into this great city, a city I want to play in for a lot of years. But, at the same time it's very difficult to go through this. I'm very thankful for everything that he did for me, but I'm also very excited for the future.

"I've played in a lot of different systems. I played in the West Coast (offense) in college. I played in the spread kind of offense here. I'm really looking forward to the next opportunity. I think it's going to be a good one for this team."

Like Ertz, Bradford also thanked Kelly, but for a very different reason. After missing two years of football due to his ACL injuries, the quarterback felt indebted to Kelly, the coach that took a chance on him and gave him another opportunity to find success in the NFL.

"I do think that Chip did a lot of things really well," Bradford said. "I enjoyed my year here. I enjoyed my time with Chip. I think I learned a lot about the game of football from him. He's a very smart football mind. Like I said earlier, I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me and the time I spent with him."

A free agent at the end of the season, Bradford said the team's new coach will be a factor in his decision to return to Philadelphia. That search has already begun.

As Lurie explained in his Wednesday afternoon press conference, he wants player input heading into this next hire. What does his team envision for the future? Who does it want leading the way in the coming seasons?

"It's smart of him," Johnson said. "This week we'll have time to talk to him because after we get back from the game, Monday you have your exit meetings. People are trying to get out of here as fast as possible. This week will be huge as far as a communication basis, talking to him."

"I need to really sit down and think about it before I go talk to Jeffrey because I think whatever you say, those are important words that you're going to tell him," Barwin explained. "For me, I need some time to think about it, but obviously you want a great leader. You want somebody that knows the game, obviously, very well, someone that relates to the players, someone that you can trust."

With the season officially over on Sunday, this is just the beginning of a new era for the Eagles, and the team is certainly looking forward to building a bright future.

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