Eagles

Daryl Worley was last to know he was heading home

Daryl Worley was last to know he was heading home

Sometimes Paradise doesn’t have great cell service. That’s one of the reasons it’s paradise. 

So back on March 9, when the Panthers traded Daryl Worley to the Eagles, Worley was one of the last to find out. See, when the trade went down, the 23-year-old cornerback was on vacation in the Bahamas. More specifically, he was on a short boat cruise over crystal blue water as a wave of messages flooded his phone. 

While his family and friends in his hometown were celebrating his return back to Philadelphia, Worley was blissfully unaware. 

Until the boat got back to shore. 

“My phone just lit up,” the cornerback said on Monday afternoon at his introductory press conference in Philly. “And I read the text messages, and I thought people were joking.” 

They weren’t. The Eagles shipped Torrey Smith and his bloated contract to Carolina and in return, the Panthers were willing to give up Worley, whom they drafted in the third round out of West Virginia in 2016. Worley was inundated with missed calls and text messages, many from loved ones in Philadelphia, still his home in the offseason. But his first phone call was to his father, Kenneth, who was “very emotional about the situation.” 

Worley’s parents still live in the same North Philadelphia neighborhood — near Temple University Hospital — where he was raised and where he grew up as an Eagles fan. 

Playing football as a youngster and then at Penn Charter, Worley was a two-way player; a safety on defense and a wide receiver on offense. So it shouldn’t be too big of a shock that he said his favorite Eagles player of all time is Terrell Owens. Worley was 15 days shy of his 10th birthday when he watched Owens play in — and nearly help the Eagles win — Super Bowl XXXIX. Owens and Worley stand in stark juxtaposition in Eagles history. While Owens was overly outspoken, Worley’s high school coach described his former player as a really quiet guy (see story).  

Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Worley to fit into the Eagles’ locker room. He’ll join several of his college teammates in Philly. He was in the same defensive backfield as Rasul Douglas for two seasons at West Virginia. He considers Wendell Smallwood one of his closest friends. And he was freshman roommates with Shelton Gibson; Worley claims he was the cleaner of the two. 

Sure, there might be some hurdles for Worley as he plays in Philly, but he understands that. He’s prepared to be pulled in several different directions.  

“Coming back home to things like this, there’s going to be a lot more asked of me, on the field and off the field,” he said, “but with that being said, I have a great support group around me and I know I have a great group of guys so anything I may need or ask for I know they’ll be able to help me with it.”

Worley isn’t sure what his role will be with the Eagles and he probably won’t know (at the earliest) until offseason workouts begin in April. Until then, he’s going to do as much film study as possible as he settles back into life where he grew up. 

Philly isn’t exactly paradise — it’s about to snow in March — but Worley is home, he gets to play for the team he rooted for as a kid. And besides, cellphones can be turned off.  

Zach Ertz missing Brent Celek as he takes his leadership role

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Zach Ertz missing Brent Celek as he takes his leadership role

There was a noticeable difference in the NovaCare Complex when Zach Ertz arrived on Monday for the first day of the Eagles’ offseason workout program. 

No Brent Celek. 

Celek, the 11-year pro, was cut earlier this offseason after a tremendous career with the Eagles. For the first time in Ertz’s six-year career, Celek won’t be around. 

And weirdly, Ertz will now assume Celek’s old role as the veteran leader in the Eagles’ tight end room. 

“It’s tough, obviously,” Ertz said on Tuesday. “He was the guy that when they brought me in, he was the guy, the veteran tight end in Philadelphia. He was the guy everyone knew about. And he didn’t treat me as a guy who was a competitor to him; he treated me as the guy who could help him further his career, where he didn’t have to take every snap. So it’s tough. That guy has been with me from the beginning, pretty much taught me how to be a pro in Philadelphia. 

“Even a couple years back, when the playing time began to increase in my way, he let me kind of take on a leadership role. He wasn’t overbearing by any means. He kind of let me lead in my own way. Even though he was the leader of the room, per se, he let me lead and slowly earn more of a leadership role in our room. He kind of set me up for this moment. I owe a lot of my success to Brent, the way he was a dominant blocking tight end, I was able to learn from that for a lot of years. I’m extremely thankful for him.”

While Ertz learned how to be a pro from Celek, he always tried to become a top-notch tight end like the Cowboys’ Jason Witten. He’s long admired his game. While some would argue Ertz finally had a breakout season in 2017, his last three years have been elite. Since 2015, he has 227 catches for 2,493 yards and 14 touchdowns. The only other TEs to put up those numbers or better over that span are Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker. And in 2017, Ertz did something Celek never did: he made a Pro Bowl. 

Celek was released and Trey Burton signed a lucrative deal to become the top tight end in Chicago, so Ertz is the only player left from last year’s tight end room. The Eagles brought in Richard Rodgers as a free agent and have a few younger prospects already on the expanded roster, but the Eagles’ brass has commented about how good of a tight end draft this is, so it would make sense if they add one later this month. 

If the Eagles do draft a tight end, the 27-year-old Ertz is going to try to be a strong veteran presence for the young player … kind of like what Celek was for him. 

“I told the guys the other day, I’m here to help however I can, whether that be talking football or just allowing them to watch how I approach things,” Ertz said. “I kind of was able to learn from Brent how to treat young tight ends coming in, young players coming in, so that’s one of the things that he kind of told me as he was leaving: that I kind of set the blueprint for your success. He didn’t say that verbally, but that’s how I took it. I want to repeat that for whoever comes in.”

Celek is gone, but through Ertz, his impact is still going to be felt in the NovaCare Complex for years to come. 

Jordan Hicks trying to shed his injury-prone label

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Jordan Hicks trying to shed his injury-prone label

Jordan Hicks missed all but four games of the 2012 season at Texas with a groin injury, then missed all of 2013 with a torn Achilles. He missed eight games as a rookie in 2015 with a torn pec and then missed nine games and the postseason last year with another Achilles.

So over the last six years, he’s played in 48 games and missed 42.

When he’s played, he’s been very good. But that’s a season-ending injury four of the last six years, and so far Hicks’ accomplishments have been overshadowed by the games he’s missed.

Hicks spoke Tuesday about how frustrating the injuries have been and how important it is for him to find a way to stay healthy.

“I don’t think I need to do that for anybody else but myself,” he said. “I want to play this game. I love playing the game of football, I love being out there with the guys, and when I’m not out there — and I think everybody feels this way when they can’t help the team — you feel like you’re letting down the team because you know you can be out there making an impact.

“So it’s more disappointing to me than … anyone else. I have to make sure I’m out there. My motivation is within. And obviously it stems from the guys around me. I want to have that accountability and let the guys know I’ll be there for them no matter what.”

Hicks, a third-round pick in 2015, has seven interceptions, two sacks, five fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in 31 NFL games.

“I don’t have any question in my mind that if I’m healthy I’ll be productive,” he said.

Hicks got hurt last year in the second Washington game. He had been dealing with a left ankle injury for several weeks when he blew out his right ankle.

“I think that had something to do with it, but I’m a professional athlete and if you put me in a position to go play then I’m going to compete as hard as I can,” he said.

“That’s just my makeup and I think that’s the makeup of this locker room. 

“When you’re dealing with one thing, you’re susceptible to another. That’s just the way your body works. As I become a pro and as I’ve become a pro, you’ve got to learn there’s a level of being smart and understanding when enough is enough and when you have to say no at some point.

“Whether it’s pride or whether it’s the things in my head, those questions have to be answered. I decided not to come out, I decided to tough it out. I played vs. the [Chargers, Panthers and Cardinals]. All with a bum ankle, and at the end of the day, hindsight is 20/20.”

Hicks is six months out from his latest injury but as voluntary minicamp begins, he declined to put a timetable on his return.

“Doing really well,” he said. “It feels like since Day 1 I’ve been ahead of schedule. Currently progressing every day, trying to get stronger, constantly trying to get my explosion back.”

Hicks, whose contract is up after this coming season, knows his value will depend tremendously on his ability to stay healthy.

“If I focus on what I need to do every single day, if I focus on getting back and focus when I’m back on making sure I’m detailing my work and I’m taking care of my body, everything is going to fall into place,” he said. 

“When you start worrying about everything else is when you get out of your game, and that’s when you can really start forcing issues.”