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Shaquille Leonard addition highlights importance of Nick Sirianni's core values

Shaquille Leonard
Shaquille Leonard

Nick Sirianni's core values have been written about several times since he was hired as a head coach in 2021, but the first of those – connect – bears repeating when it comes to the addition of Shaquille Leonard.

When the former All-Pro linebacker was released by the Indianapolis Colts last month, several suitors vied for Leonard's services. After visits last week in Dallas and Philadelphia, Leonard agreed to terms with the Eagles on a one-year contract Monday afternoon.

When asked on Wednesday what made the difference, Leonard cited the connection he had with Sirianni when the two were together in Indianapolis.

"Nick was a great coach, great competitor. We had a bond when we were in Indy, so I kind of just went with that," Leonard said standing in front of his new locker stall at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday afternoon. "It was more so just the environment that I will be in. It fit my mentality, the dawg mentality that he has."

That bond was forged during the highly competitive practices when Sirianni was the offensive coordinator and Leonard captained the defense. There was plenty of trash talk involved. And Leonard didn't want to give Sirianni the satisfaction that the offense gained the upper hand in practice.

"One thing I love to do is compete and I think Nick does the same, so it was pretty fun. I felt like we brought out the best in each other," Leonard said. "It made me go out and be the best version of myself and try to compete because I knew that in the next team meeting, he was gonna say something if the offense won."

Now, Leonard is an Eagle and he will look to help Sirianni beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Yes, Leonard is aware that his first game will be against the other team that he visited last week.

"It is what it is," Leonard said. "Not trying to make it too big or too small, just try to take it one game at a time and each the same exact approach no matter who I'm facing."

What will be Leonard's role? Well, that remains to be seen. He met with Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai during his visit last week and embraced Desai's vision for how he would fit in the scheme.

"I don't have any expectation, just whatever the coach needs me to do, whatever this team needs me to do, that's exactly what I'm gonna do," he said.

The AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time first-team All-Pro described his reaction to his release by the Colts as being "stunned," but isn't looking to prove to Indianapolis that he can still play at a high level.

"I want to prove to myself that I still can play," Leonard said. "That's why I continue to just grind as hard as I possibly can and come out and put my best foot forward."

Players on the offensive side of the ball know what Leonard brings to the table and are glad that he's now in midnight green.

"He's a tremendous player," said tight end Dallas Goedert, who had 73 yards on seven catches and his first-career touchdown against the Colts in 2018 when both he and Leonard were rookies. "He's long. He's fast. He's physical. He's got great skills that you can't teach. Really excited to have him on this team and excited to see what he can do this week."

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