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Spadaro: An inside look at NFC Championship Game Week

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

The biggest difference you notice during an NFC Championship Game week at the NovaCare Complex is not the football schedule, which is largely the same as any other week, nor the mood of the team, which is always upbeat and energetic, nor even the amount of phone calls received by Michele Braughton, who runs the front desk and the busy lobby area that is always bright and cherry.

No, it's the amount of media swarming South Philadelphia. In addition to the largest daily beat reporter coverage of any team in the NFL, the Eagles have welcomed reporters from around the country and, in fact, from around the world this week. On Thursday, there was a film crew from Mexico promoting this NFC Championship Game, as well as one from NFL UK, a weekly show for that ever-expanding audience.

It was much more crowded than usual in the locker room on Thursday when the dozens and dozens of reporters have their NFL-mandated 45 minutes of time in the players' quarters, making it difficult for the players at times. But it's part of the business.

"You make the best of it because they're doing their job," linebacker Kyzir White said. "We're one of only four teams still playing, so that's the name of the game. Everybody is watching us. I think that's the best way to look at it."

The highlights on this day, then, were seeing wide receiver/returner Britain Covey conducting an interview with the Mexican film crew in Spanish and, on the other side of the room, hearing defensive tackle Jordan Davis provide his best British accent to the UK group.

All in all, it's a mob scene.

"Doesn't bother me," offensive tackle Jordan Mailata said. "I have fun with it. If I'm not in the mood to talk, I won't talk, but that doesn't happen very often. I enjoy the questions, try to figure out where they're coming from, what angle they're taking. It's all part of being in the NFL."

Some news and notes and a little bit of this and that from the NovaCare Complex as the NFC Championship Game nears ...

1. Well-deserved honor for Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman was named the 2022 Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. Roseman, who won the award in 2017, has transitioned this roster from the Super Bowl team five seasons ago to one of the very best in the league, with a great mixture of young players and veteran experience. Adding wide receiver A.J. Brown, linebacker Haason Reddick, cornerback James Bradberry, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and many others, and adding valuable future NFL Draft capital, positions the Eagles to remain among the NFL's elite for years to come. It is certainly no surprise he won the award. The roster is loaded and the moves that Roseman has made and the way his personnel team has navigated the salary cap and all the inner workings of roster building are simply genius.

2. Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean were part of Georgia's National Championship-winning team last season and now they're playing deep into the NFL postseason. That's a lot of football for two players just soaking up every bit of experience and knowledge.

"That's what I'm doing every day," Dean said. "Learning, working hard, preparing to play my best football. Every day is a new experience and I love it."

Said Davis: "I'm a rookie still and I'm trying to learn everything. At the end of the day, we take it day by day. You have to breathe it in. You've got to be grateful for this and appreciate this experience. There are a lot of guys who played for many years in the NFL and never played this deep into the playoffs."

3. What is the list of priorities for the defense? Pretty much the same as every week, actually.

"First and foremost, stop the run," defensive end Josh Sweat said. "We know they're good at it and they're going to be physical. Then we want to rush the quarterback. That's what we do very well. But we know they have a great offense and they throw a lot of things at you. There is a lot to think about, so we just have to focus on our jobs and go out and play our best football."

4. We've all learned by now that wide receiver DeVonta Smith is straight to the point when he answers questions, so when he was asked what the key is for Sunday's game against San Francisco, he got right to it.

"Just do your job, do what the coaches ask you to do. Do what you can do to help the team," he said. "That's what we're here for, to win the game. We are happy for each other and we know we have to work together to accomplish our goals. So, go out and be physical and do your job, no matter what your job is on that particular play."

5. How big is this moment? Big, for sure. But center Jason Kelce understands that the composition of the roster and the coaching staff is built to handle the spotlight and the pressure of Championship games.

"The stakes are higher, but you're still playing the same game," he said. "I think most of the time when situations get the best of people, they let the stakes make people do uncharacteristic things, make them make mistakes. You're not locked in for a second. I think Nick (Sirianni, head coach) does a great job of preaching it, the older guys preach it and I think we've got a really, really good group across the board. You can't have nothing but old guys, otherwise you don't have too much energy out there and you can't have nothing but young guys, otherwise there will be nowhere to channel that energy. We've got a really good depth of roster. We've got some old guys, we've got some young guys, we've got really, really good coaches so I feel confident that we'll be able to handle the situation."

6. And one final thing, from Lincoln Financial Field. You have no doubt noticed that the natural grass of the stadium looks absolutely fantastic, a credit to Eagles Vice President of Grounds Tony Leonard and his staff. The field was re-sodded after the Army-Navy game, but there has been heavy action in the month of January. Sunday's game will be the fourth this month, but the grass looks magnificent.

"Kudos go out to our staff and to our sod farm over at Tuckahoe Sod Farm in Hammonton (New Jersey)," Leonard said. "We have a great product and our crew works very hard – it's probably the most games we've hosted ever in the month of January – and the field looks great and it's playing great. We have the heat system under the field and that helps and we've had good weather this week. The field has some recovery since Sunday, and it's going to be safe, it's going to be playable, and look great. We'll have some scuff marks from Saturday's game, but we've worked on it and we're really proud.

"It's going to play great, feel great for the players, and it will look good for television."

A job well done by everybody and it's part of the incredible environment at Lincoln Financial Field for such a huge moment.

Tony Leonard, Vice President of Grounds
Tony Leonard, Vice President of Grounds

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