This is a fresh start for cornerback Steven Nelson, who has brought with him two suitcases of personal possessions to Philadelphia, along with a sizeable chip on his shoulder that he plans to carry with him for the foreseeable future.
It's "go" time for Nelson, who stepped into his first Eagles practice on Wednesday and took reps with the No. 1 defense opposite Darius Slay, with Avonte Maddox lined up as the nickel corner.
"The fan base played a major part," Nelson said, discussing why he chose Philadelphia as his landing spot in free agency. Nelson agreed to terms on a one-year contract on Sunday and officially signed his deal on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. "Also, just the opportunity here, man. I like a lot of what they do. Great guys on the team, great town, to say the least. All of those things played a major role."
Entering his seventh NFL season, Nelson was released by Pittsburgh in March as part of a cost-cutting move and since then he has waited for the right situation to present itself. It did with the Eagles, who were closely monitoring his situation throughout the offseason. With an interest in boosting their talent level at the corner – "You can never have enough corners in this league," general manager Howie Roseman said on Wednesday – the Eagles landed Nelson and promptly gave him a chance to show what he could do in Jonathan Gannon's defense. Nelson is a competitive, athletic corner who has played both on the perimeter and inside at the cornerback spot in his career and he's been on a crash course learning the defense all week.
Nelson isn't here to reinvent himself or to boast and brag and make predictions. He vows to "just put my head down and work, no matter the outcome. It doesn't matter the outcome. I'm just going to do whatever it takes to win," Nelson said.
A five-year starter in his time between Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Nelson isn't boasting. He's not looking ahead. He is staying focused on the little stuff, understanding how important it is to walk before trying to run. Nelson didn't have a personal relationship with Slay prior to becoming and Eagle, but that chemistry is building. Every day on the field together and on the camaraderie that head coach Nick Sirianni wants to create will pay off and Slay is doing his part by guiding Nelson on and off the field.
"Steve came on our radar right when he was let go from the Steelers. A lot of respect for him and who he is as a person and as a player," general manager Howie Roseman said. "I mean, this guy is incredibly competitive and tough and instinctive. I think this is another guy who sits there and goes, like, 'Why aren't I recognized as the kind of player that I am? I want to be recognized as the kind of player I am.'
"I think as you got closer to camp, some of it kind of goes. He really kind of figured out where he wanted to be, why he wanted to be there. You can never have enough corners in this league. We saw it last year. Again, another position that we had starting guys we got off the street. Excited to have him here and be part of this team."
There isn't a whole lot of time between now and the season opener in Atlanta on September 12, so Nelson knows he has to be on point every day as he integrates into the defense. There isn't much joy in the grind of Camp, but that's just the nature of the beast. The Eagles are a whole lot better with Nelson on the field.
"It's all about the grind right now," Nelson said, "and I'm just fine with that. The season is here."