The Eagles returned to the NovaCare Complex on Thursday and had a day of meetings and a walkthrough practice and, with that, the players met the media. Here is a sampling of what the players said with Super Bowl LVII very much in focus.
A.J. Brown: The pride of Starkville, Mississippi
The small town of Starkville, Mississippi is beaming with pride as two of its sports stars – Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown and Kansas City linebacker Willie Gay – will be on opposite sidelines in Super Bowl LVII. Brown was asked about it on Thursday and expressed his excitement of playing against his former high school teammate.
"It's truly a blessing to be on the biggest stage of football," Brown said. "I'm so blessed to play this game and to know Willie and to play high school ball with him and to have competed against him in college, growing up five minutes from where we live from each other, it means everything to the City of Starkville. I know they're proud of both of us. We lived in the country, so it just shows to the kids, like, you can make it out. You can do whatever you put your mind to it. Take the right route."
Brown was, of course, acquired in a trade with Tennessee on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft and he said that where the Eagles are was "always the expectation." He spoke to the team early in the season and told his teammates that "this is the goal. This is why we play the game. I'm not playing for individual awards. I'm playing the game to be the best and to hold that trophy up at the end. Right now, we're right here. We're at the door. We've just got to go take it."
Brandon Graham, Philly's longest-tenured athlete, back on the Super Bowl stage
He has been here before, just five seasons ago. There was appreciation then and there certainly is now for defensive end Brandon Graham. He is five years older, he has had to overcome another major injury, and, well, who knows how much longer he will have this opportunity?
So, Graham plans to make the most of every moment on this stage.
"I'm in Year 13, finally got double digits (in quarterback sacks, 11) this year, I'm contributing to help the team as much as I can so this has been the best, for me because, who would have thought in Year 13 I would still be here?" Graham said. "After winning the last time (Super Bowl), coming off tearing my Achilles tendon (in 2021), me playing half of the snaps I played before, this is special."
Graham also had some words in response to what Giants safety Julian Love said earlier in the day on Good Morning Football on the NFL Network, when he said of Eagles' Head Coach Nick Sirianni: "I don't like it. I don't like it at all. He's in for a free ride right now. You guys can coach this team."
That didn't sit well with Graham, who was well aware of the comment.
"People always got something to say when they're at home," Graham said. "I just know that Coach Sirianni – it don't matter – what he did last year, with a team that nobody thought was gonna do much, he ended up getting us to the playoffs. Then for his second year, that's what you're supposed to do – you're supposed to get better, you're supposed to bring players in to do exactly what you need them to do and we did that."
Graham then credited the job Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman did building the roster and turned back to Sirianni.
"A lot of people just mad because of what happened this season and I understand. It definitely carried no weight because Coach proved himself each and every day and if you're not in here, you wouldn't really know that, so it's just all lip service," he said.
Dallas Goedert: 'Everybody is hungry to win one more'
Want a feel for the locker room? It is as you would think it should be, said tight end Dallas Goedert.
"Everybody is pretty excited," he said. "But we have two weeks yet and we're just focusing on the day at hand. We've gotta attack the meetings, go attack this walkthrough, and then attack the meetings again. Everybody is just really hungry to get out there and win one more."
Goedert said things feel "pretty normal" right now at the NovaCare Complex, but he knows things will change in Arizona with the enormity of the Super Bowl.
"It's only Thursday but it already feels like it's been a super-long week. The anticipation, I'm sure, is only going to get longer as the week goes on and we're locked up in a hotel," he said. "It's a lot better than being locked up on your couch."
Arryn Siposs 'ready to go' as his practice window opens
It has been a tough last six weeks for Siposs, who went on Injured Reserve after suffering a high-ankle injury in the December 11 win at the New York Giants. His 21-day practice window has been opened and he says he is "feeling good. Feeling really good. I'm ready to go," for Super Bowl LVII.
Whether he plays or not remains to be seen. The Eagles have gone with Brett Kern since then, and Kern has played in six games, averaging 40.8 yards in the four regular-season games and 44.1 yards with three of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line in the postseason.
Siposs was averaging 45.6 yards, with a 39.6-yard net, in 13 games before the injury.
"I'm going out there and preparing to play and that's all there is to it," said Siposs, who said he could have played in the NFC Championship Game. "Whatever happens, happens, but it's a great opportunity to go out there and do my thing.
"It's been a long grind and I'm very fortunate to be in this position to have a shot. We'll see what happens."
Kenneth Gainwell doesn't shy from the big moments
His recent success is no surprise to the second-year running back, who has been quiet and in the background since the Eagles selected him in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft from Memphis. That's just Gainwell's style.
"I work hard and I keep my head down," he said. "I stay focused on what I have to do and I don't let the big moments get to me. I just work hard and it's not seen from a lot of people but the people who know that I've been working hard know that it's time."
Competition in the running back room has "added fuel to the fire" and Gainwell is not surprised that he's been ready when called upon in the postseason. He won a State Championship in high school and his Memphis team in 2019 went to the American Conference Championship Game.
"I was just born like that, I guess," he said. "I don't let the big moments get to me. I'm ready to go."
Reed Blankenship is not ready to reflect on rookie season
How far as Reed Blankenship come? He isn't looking back, but maybe at some point after the Super Bowl he will. Blankenship made the team as a non-drafted free agent after a great five-year career at Middle Tennessee State and ended up playing 291 snaps, most of the 2022 Rookie Class.
"It's really about being ready for the opportunity," said Blankenship, who stepped in and started four games at safety when C.J. Gardner-Johnson was injured. "I've always been taught that you can be called on at any time, so be prepared. That's what I did from the day I got here. It's gone by really fast. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I felt I had some tough odds when I got here, but I just worked and gave my best effort and I have earned their confidence.
"But I'm not looking back. Maybe after the season. We have a job to do and we're excited to go out and play and win the game."