Ex-Eagle marvels at how NFL Combine has changed

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Ex-Eagle marvels at how NFL Combine has changed

The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine started this week and I am really in amazement of the production it now presents. There are so many differences in the way the Combine was run, in comparison to how I remember it.

Let's start with the athlete swag and gear used to work out. Under Armour sponsors the athletes' workout uniforms; I remember I had regular Russell kelly-grey sweat suits, red t-shirts with the NFL logo and the blue shorty-shorts that came to only mid-thigh. The high-tech material and fit of the new workout gear weighs next to nothing and dri-fit spandex moves with the player's body like it is a part of their skin. 

I was a 300-pound O-lineman, so air drag and track shoes didn't matter to my 40-yard dash, but it does for a player like Donte "Action" Jackson out of LSU, who is trying to break the sub-4.2 in the 40. 

These new athletes run their 40 in track shoes like Olympic sprinters. I remember I ran the 40 in some New Balance running sneakers. I'm sure with the high-tech gear and preparation, I could have really put up some good numbers at the Combine, but my numbers were average.

Athletes are prepped today for the physical and mental gymnastics. The only real test I remember being stressed was the Wonderlic. I wasn't sent to a workout facility to concentrate on Combine-specific workouts. I stayed at Kansas State and worked out with my team strength and conditioning staff at the school. I maintained my diet at the KSU training table and splurged on fast food with my newfound money from agents trying to recruit me to represent me in contract negotiations. 

Now, athletes are taken through strenuous interviewing sessions implemented by their agents. Agents send the athletes to training facilities that force-feed them football 24/7. Their diets are maintained, body fat measured. They go through sleep studies and interviewing classes, which help for when teams question everything under the sun to see whether they'll get a good return on the athlete. Yes, a good return, because these athletes are investments. These companies, i.e. teams, invest millions of dollars into these athletes.

Back in a time that now seems like the Stone Age, there wasn't 24-hour coverage of sports, let alone the NFL Combine. The results for these athletes is now instantaneous. Back in 1995, we didn't know what our results were until later in the week. The O-linemen worked out on Friday and I walked around bragging back at KSU that I ran a 5.10 in the 40-yard dash, put up 26 reps on bench press (225 pounds) and a 32-inch vertical. All those results ... WRONG! I ran an electronic time of 5.24 in the 40 with 20 reps on the bench and a 30-inch vertical.

So folks, long story short, the amount of information and visibility these new athletes have to navigate is tremendous. Mentally, physically and emotionally, players have to be tougher to deal with this theatre that is now the modern day NFL Combine.

Eagles' Super Bowl odds changed by free agency

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Eagles' Super Bowl odds changed by free agency

The Eagles pulled off trades and signed a few free agents after the new league year began on March 14 ... and it's shortened their Super Bowl odds. 

The Eagles' odds to win Super Bowl LIII improved from 9/1 to 17/2 between Feb. 5 and March 22, according to Bovada. Despite beating them in Super Bowl LII less than two months ago, the Eagles still trail the Patriots, who stood pat at 5/1. 

Here's the full top 10: 

1. Patriots: 5/1
2. Eagles: 17/2
3. Vikings: 9/1
4. Steelers: 12/1
5. Packers: 14/1
5. Rams: 14/1
7. Saints: 18/1
8. Falcons: 20/1
9. Texans: 22/1
9. Jaguars: 22/1
9. Raiders: 22/1

As for the rest of the teams in the NFC East, the next closest to the Eagles are the Cowboys, but their inactivity this offseason gave them longer odds, going from 18/1 to 28/1. The Giants' odds stayed at 50/1, while the Redskins' odds went from 50/1 to 66/1. 

And here's a fun prop bet: The over/under for Michael Bennett sacks in 2018 is set at 8. Last season, he had 8½ with the Seahawks. Now, he's playing on a dynamic defensive line but also figures to play less because of the Eagles' rotation.

Chris Long leaning one way with decision to return

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Chris Long leaning one way with decision to return

It seems like Chris Long is going to be back with the Eagles in 2018 — at least he’s leaning that way. 

The Eagles gave Long a significant raise for next season, increasing his base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million guaranteed, but Long was still reportedly thinking about walking away (see story)

After all, money probably isn’t going to be the only deciding factor for a guy who gave all of his salary away last season. 

But after less than a day of speculation, Long’s Waterboys charity had an event in St. Louis on Wednesday night and the veteran defensive end was asked about his future in the NFL. 

“For me, at my age, every year is important to make a decision and to take self-inventory,” Long said. “Is your body there, is your mind in it, do you have the passion? Because it takes a lot. For me, every year I’m one year at a time from here on out. For however long I play. Philly’s been awesome, like I said. They kind of adopted me like family, so that definitely factors into everything. The chance to repeat. 

“I’m still supposedly mulling it over, but I’m leaning on going back and playing. So yeah. I mean, I hadn’t even answered any questions about that, but there you go.”

Here’s the video, clipped by Bleeding Green Nation, to hear Long say it for himself: 

Long will turn 33 on March 28 and clearly has plenty going on outside of football, so it wouldn’t be shocking if the former first-round pick decided to walk away. But if he did, the Eagles would clearly miss him. 

During the 2017 season, Long picked up five sacks in a limited role and helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, a year after helping the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. If Long does indeed return to the Eagles this season, he has a chance to make it three in a row.