Celek's blueprint to being an ultimate Philly athlete

Celek's blueprint to being an ultimate Philly athlete

In a business where nobody stays anywhere for 11 years, Brent Celek was an Eagle for 11 years.

Think about the landscape of the Philadelphia Eagles when he arrived for his first rookie minicamp.

Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator. John Harbaugh was the secondary coach. Brian Dawkins was still here. Donovan McNabb was the quarterback and Kevin Kolb was his backup. The Eagles had just acquired Montae Reagor, Takeo Spikes and Kevin Curtis.

It’s like reading an Eagles ancient history book.

For 11 years, for 184 games, Celek wore an Eagles uniform, and for 11 years, for 184 games, nobody wore it with more class and more pride.

Celek loved being an Eagle, and we loved him because he played the game exactly how we want our athletes to play. How we demand they play. With reckless abandon, with no regard for personal achievements, with an eye only on team success.

What impressed me the most about Celek is how he transformed himself over the years from one of the NFL’s top receiving tight ends to one of the league’s best blocking tight ends.

From 2009 through 2013, Celek averaged 54 catches, 696 yards and five touchdowns per season, and only five NFL tight ends had better numbers during that stretch — Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham. Some all-time guys right there.

Then Zach Ertz blossomed in 2014, and Celek all of a sudden was asked to stop catching passes and start focusing on blocking, and it never mattered to him because all he wanted to do was help the team win football games. Whatever it took.

That fierce team-first mentality carried over into the locker room and helped make Celek a natural leader and fan favorite. And that unselfish spirit really drove the 2017 Eagles, so although his stats may not have looked like much this past season — career lows of 13 catches and 130 yards — Celek was a huge part of what this team accomplished.

And it’s fitting that the 184th and final game he played as an Eagle was the franchise’s greatest triumph in the last 50 years.

Nobody was happier in the locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4 after Super Bowl LII than Celek, who has spent a third of his life working for one, single goal and got to experience it being achieved.

And his teammates kept talking about how happy they were for Celek.

This is a franchise that has been around for 85 years, and only David Akers, Dawkins and Harold Carmichael have played more games than Celek.

Of the 17 players in Eagles history who have spent 11 or more years here, only eight played their entire career here.

Chuck Bednarik, Bucko Kilroy, Vic Sears, Jerry Sisemore, Bobby Walston, Randy Logan and Pete Retzlaff.

And — as of now — Celek.

That’s the company he’s in.

Celek still wants to play, and if there’s a team out there that needs a smart, tough, savvy backup tight end, I can’t think of a better candidate.

But like Dawkins or Reggie White or Carmichael, he’s one of those guys that would be really tough to see in another uniform.

It’s funny. In 2009, when Celek finished 29 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, I was really upset. I wanted him to get that 1,000 yards. Which he never did get. And when he finished this past season with 4,998 career yards, I was gutted. I couldn’t imagine him leaving Philly two yards short of 5,000.

But when I think about it now, Celek probably doesn’t even care about that stuff. He would just shrug and shake his head and say numbers don’t matter.

What does matter?

He’s a winner. He’s a champion. He’s an Eagle. And he always will be.

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

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More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

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Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.