BEREA, Ohio – What is the motivation, I ask Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, when you wake up and it's a football day? He's been doing it his entire life, the last 11 years in Philadelphia and of course there is the love of the game, and there is the professional side of it and all of that matters. But is there something more specific for Cox, a six-time Pro Bowl player, a four-time All-Pro selection, and a member of the NFL's All-Decade team of the 2010s?
When he wakes up in the morning, what motivates him to go out and do it again on the football field, even on a day like today, when it's a practice day and he's had thousands of those in his lifetime?
"I get to come out here and whip another man's (butt) and get paid for it," Cox says, laughing. "I love that challenge and that competition. I can say specifically that my goal every day is to improve myself in something that I love to do. This is a game I've played my entire life and I make a living doing it with a bunch of guys around me that I love in an organization that has been great to me.
"That's what I think about when I wake up and then go to work. It's another day doing something that I love to do and that I want to do."
In his 11th season here, Cox isn't one to spend a lot of time looking back. He is enjoying so much what is happening with the 2022 Eagles and with a defensive tackle energized by youth – Milton Williams from the 2021 NFL Draft and Jordan Davis from this past spring. Cox is the OG here and he embraces that role. He will pull Davis aside and give him pointers and that makes Cox feel so good.
Back in the day, it was Cox in the inexperienced seat listening to what Cullen Jenkins and Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp were telling him. Now, he's the elder statesman.
"I think it's cool because Jordan, what makes him special, and you have to understand what this means to me, when we're talking and I'm telling him something, I know he's listening and he actually takes notes," Cox said. "He writes it down. I think that's special."
Cox is on the field here against the Cleveland Browns, yukking it up with his teammates on the sidelines as he watches the Eagles' offense make plays. He's shouting out fun trash talk to the Browns because, well, he and the Eagles haven't seen another team in months other than the preseason game last week against the Jets and it's just great to play against new blood. The Eagles emphasize fundamentals throughout their practices, so for much of the time on the field Cox is working on the little things, the parts of the game that he knows so well and has mastered to the point where he is an all-timer. One of the best ever in the NFL.
How does a guy who has been doing it for 10 full seasons improve his game? Age has a way of evening the odds, so there's that. Wisdom helps, but it comes down to the details. And Cox is embracing the details.
"How do you handle the workday? How do you carry yourself? It's about being a professional, so you have to understand that there is always something to improve," he said. "I grew up playing this game. I watched the people around me. I matured. Adulting. That's a big part of it. I've always been in a strong locker room here and with the staff and I've enjoyed it all. Those older guys, when I was young, they showed me how to do it. They showed me love.
"Now I get to show the younger guys that same love."
Of course, Cox is also very much present in the goings-on of the Eagles. This isn't a trip down Nostalgia Lane for him, this 2022 season. It is very much like every season in his magnificent career, one that could very well land him in Canton, Ohio in the future. The Eagles have a revamped defense that is playing with great speed, with so much passion, and tremendous energy this summer. It is a contagious feeling in the locker room that the Eagles are onto something special, and that to get to where they want to be, where they know they can be when it's all said and done, they need to take one step after the other.
Slowly. Surely. Paying attention to the details.
"We get to see different looks, looks we haven't seen until now," he said. "This is fun out here. What I'm most excited about with this team is that we've got a lot of good dudes. Really good teammates that go out every day and compete. Nobody is making it about themselves. We can't win with one person. We can win as a team, and that's what I'm really feeling about this team. I like what we are as a team and that's the most important thing."
Cox woke up on Friday in a hotel room in Cleveland knowing that the afternoon will be very much the same as the day before. A bus ride to practice. A series of drills to work on his hand placement, his get-off at the line of scrimmage, and his footwork. And then he will line up and see his opponent on the other side of the line of scrimmage and it's on.
"Go out and win every day. I mean, you wake up and go beat that other guy," he said. "That's the fun of it for me on the field. Do your job, win against the man you're going against, and win a football game. That's motivation enough. I love all of that."