Eagles

Eagles' Super Bowl task just got tougher

Eagles' Super Bowl task just got tougher

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Gronk is back. 

Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has cleared the NFL's concussion protocol and was a full participant in Thursday's practice at Vikings' Winter Park. 

The Eagles are going to have to deal with the best tight end in football in Super Bowl LII on Sunday. 

"I was just going through the protocol, whatever the standards were, whatever they had me do throughout the weeks," Gronkowski said Thursday afternoon. "I mean, I would say they were more on the cautious side of getting me out there right away with the bye week and everything in between, which definitely helped out big time, but just did every step by step every day, everything went smooth, and officially got the word today that I was cleared. So it was super nice to hear from the doctors going through the whole process and I'm ready to roll."

It's likely the Eagles will call on safety Malcolm Jenkins to cover Gronkowski on Sunday night. Jenkins has had success against top tight ends in the league before, but Gronk is a different animal. In every game Jenkins has ever faced the Patriots, either Gronk was hurt or it came before the tight end entered the league in 2010. 

Gronkowski (6-6, 267) played in just 14 games this regular season, but still went over 1,000 yards receiving for the fourth time in his eight-year career. 

"Obviously looking forward to the matchup," Jenkins said last week. "He's a top tight end in this league for a reason. He does a great job of creating contact and using his body to separate the defender from the ball and catches contested throws. He's faster than most people think and then (Tom) Brady puts it in a spot only he can get it." 

The Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, following their morning media session. Tim Jernigan (illness) missed practice for the second straight day. The Eagles have been dealing with a cold that's been passed around; Kenjon Barner and Doug Pederson were sick last week in Philly. Ronald Darby was added to the injury report with an illness but was a full participant. 

Also full participants were Jay Ajayi (ankle), Fletcher Cox (calf) and Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring).  

Back to Patriots practice, Brady practiced with black tape on his right throwing hand for the second straight day as the Patriots went in shells and helmets, a step down from their fully-padded practice on Wednesday. 

DBs Malcolm Butler (illness) and Brandon King (knee) were also full participants on Thursday, according to a pool report. Lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. also cleared the NFL's concussion protocol. 

The Patriots had a special guest Thursday: former nose tackle Vince Wilfork spoke to the team after practice.  

"He's a great leader for us, team captain 11 years," Belichick said. "A lot of friends here on the team, some new faces. But a guy that was very well-respected and had tremendous leadership on the team. It was good to see him." 

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out to me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.