Eagles

David Akers on years with Eagles: 'The fans changed my life'

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David Akers on years with Eagles: 'The fans changed my life'

Editor's note: This story originally ran Aug. 31.

When you talk about David Akers, you pretty much have to talk about opening day 2000.
 
It wasn’t just the hottest game in NFL history and one of the Eagles' greatest wins over the Cowboys, it was the start of an 11-year run in which the Eagles went to the playoffs nine times, reached five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl and averaged 10½ wins per year.
 
And when Akers talks about memories of his 12 years with the Eagles, he has to start on that blazing hot afternoon, Sept. 3, 2000, at Texas Stadium.
 
"It was my first game, first year as a full-time kicker, my first kickoff as a full-time kicker," Akers recalled. "And Andy Reid comes in before the game and says if we lose the coin toss, we're opening the game with an onside kick.
 
"I was like, 'You're kidding, right?' I was really worried about not doing well and now we're starting the game with an onside kick? I had already been cut by three teams, and I was like, 'Man, if I screw this up, I might as well just pack up and leave.' "
 
As we all know, Akers' onside kick was perfect, Dameane Douglas recovered, and just a few minutes later Donovan McNabb's TD pass to Stanley Pritchett had the Eagles on their way to a historic 41-14 win over the Cowboys in what came to be known as the Pickle Juice Game.
 
Before he was finished with the Eagles, Akers scored a franchise-record 1,323 points and played a franchise-record 188 games. Along with Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas and Brian Dawkins, he became one of four players in franchise history to play in 10 postseason wins.
 
On Wednesday evening, Akers learned that this fall he'll become the 50th inductee in the Eagles Hall of Fame.
 
Akers is scheduled to be inducted Oct. 23 at halftime of the Eagles-Redskins game at the Linc.
 
“I loved my time in Philly," said Akers, who kicked here from 1999 through 2010. "The fans changed my life. People talk about the billboard we left (when he left Philly), but honestly, it was a true bottom-of-the-heart thank you from my family.
 
"I hope when the fans look at everything, they know I tried the best I could. I always did it for the team, the organization, the fans, and the reality is that none of us are perfect and obviously I would like to have some field goals back in my career, but if I rewrote how things went down, I probably wouldn’t change very much. And I wouldn’t change where I played my 12 years."
 
After getting cut by the Panthers, Redskins and Falcons as an undrafted kicker out of Louisville, Akers found a home in Philadelphia. And even though he finished his career with brief stops in San Francisco and Detroit — it was with the 49ers that he tied the then-NFL record with a 63-yard field goal — it was in Philly that he put up historic numbers and made five of his six Pro Bowls.
 
In NFL history, only three kickers have played in more postseason wins with the same team than Akers — Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots has played in 15, Adam Vinatieri played in 13 for the Patriots and Roy Gerela of the 1970s Steelers played in 11.
 
"The one thing about Philly fans, they’re so passionate, and it was an honor to play for them as long as I did," Akers said. "They go to the games when we're not doing well. They let you hear it but they're always going to be there. And when you're doing well? This is the greatest city to be around when you're playing well, and guys who don’t get a chance to experience that, it’s a shame."
 
Akers ranks 12th in NFL history with 1,721 points and 11th in history with 386 total field goals. He's the No. 2 scorer in NFL postseason history with 175 points, 59 fewer than Vinatieri.
 
He's also 12th in NFL history with 27 field goals over 50 yards.
 
And now he joins five former teammates — Dawkins, McNabb, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook and Troy Vincent — along with Jim Johnson as the seventh representative of the Andy Reid Eagles in the team's Hall of Fame.
 
“When Mr. Lurie (owner Jeffrey Lurie) called me, I have to say that I was shocked but humbled just because I have so much gratitude for what the Eagles did for me," Akers said.
 
"They gave me the opportunity when the Redskins and Panthers and Falcons had not been successful for me. My first kickoff in the NFL went 90 yards for a touchdown the opposite way, and I missed a 49-yarder, then got cut two days later.
 
"It's unbelievable how quickly those 12 years went with the Eagles. Such great runs with so many wonderful players and great coaches, a lot of who were very successful after moving on from the Eagles."
 
Akers learned he had been selected to the Hall of Fame Wednesday night during the Taking Flight for Autism fundraiser at the Linc.
 
"Obviously the one thing that sticks with me is the last time I played in an Eagles uniform is not a day I'd like to remember (2010 playoff loss to the Packers)," he said.
 
"So it was a little surreal being back on the stage at the Linc where a lot of other positive memories happened. Looking back on my career, just overwhelmed with gratitude, to be honest with you."

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.