In other Eagles news ... a feel-good story.
Three Eagles are "in" Sunday's Pro Bowl, a virtual event as it turns out to be played in the format of a Madden 21 video game, and for first-time Pro Bowler Brandon Graham, nothing is going to ruin "the time of my life."
The details of the event were kind of sketchy until the last couple of days as Graham was asked, a few times, how available he would be for events, all of them virtual. The answer: I'll do everything and anything you want.
"I just want to have the time of my life and enjoy the experience, no matter whether we're playing in it or not," Graham said last week in a phone conversation. "Next year is another goal for me so that I can play in it."
In his 11th season, Graham had one of his best in a disappointing 4-11-1 Eagles campaign. He was one of only three NFL players (along with Arizona's Hasson Reddick and Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt) to have at least eight quarterback sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. Graham started all 16 games for the third straight season and the fourth in the last five (the only time he hasn't started a game in the last five seasons was the finale in the 2017 regular season) and his 159 games played are the most for any defensive lineman in Eagles history.
The Pro Bowl, an individual reward for a selfless, team-first player, completes a personal hat trick for Graham – a second-team All-Pro in the 2016 season and a Super Bowl winner in the 2017 campaign.
"I'm thankful, for sure. So hyped that we're even having this conversation right now," Graham said. "Last year, when the season was over, I was done until next year. Now, at least I've got a little bit to do right now even in the midst of the playoffs and the Super Bowl. It's one of those things that I'm glad I got the experience of feeling it. I made it, a great feeling, and even though I'm not playing in it, it's inspiring even more to put another chip on my shoulder to go back and get it and play in it. I'm just enjoying the whole experience of, whatever they offer, I'm ready to do.
"It lets me know to continue to keep fighting. What's going to come to you is going to come to you, no matter what time of your career it happens. This is my first time and it was the best feeling ever. All the other times (when he was voted as an alternate) and hoping somebody would drop out so that I could get in it, that's in the past. I would have had it no other way. Even in a COVID year, with the odds against me and knowing that in any given week they could cancel the season and it would be done, I just stayed the course and kept working and kept my head down. I did whatever the family needed from me at home and I did whatever the team needed from me, continued to go after it 100 miles an hour and I'm just thankful. There have been a lot of ups and downs in my career, a lot of hard work, a lot of smiles, too. I'm thankful that it came to me before my time expired in the league."
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and center Jason Kelce were also voted to the Pro Bowl, Cox's sixth selection (all consecutive) and Kelce's fourth selection. They appreciated the vote and, certainly, were honored. Graham's reaction – outright jubilation – speaks to the true honor of the Pro Bowl and how it is, in fact, a goal for players. It's a team sport, no doubt about it, but as far as individual goals go, the Pro Bowl ranks right at the top.
"We all had to adjust this year, so why not embrace it and be the best at adjusting?" Graham said. "It was a tough season for us as a team and that was hard to have happen, but you keep working and you keep pushing. I stretched more than I've stretched this year, so I'm going to add stretching to my regimen. Anything that works. You just have to keep working at it. You've got to sacrifice some things on and off the field. It's all part of growing up, and to be in this Pro Bowl, it's a very exciting feeling. Next year, I'm going to play in the game. That's something I'm shooting for."