How Brandon Graham went from bust to Super Bowl hero

How Brandon Graham went from bust to Super Bowl hero

There was a time not all that long ago when Brandon Graham's mother, Tasha, wouldn't wear her son's jersey to Lincoln Financial Field. 

She wanted to support her son, but it just probably wasn't a good idea. 

“They were calling him a bust and they were saying they should have gotten JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) or Earl Thomas,” Tasha Graham said in a November 2015 interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It was a lot he had to stomach and stay strong on. That’s just the ups and downs of the NFL. When you’re good, you can’t get them off your coattails and when you’re bad, oh, they let you know.” 

Eagles fans definitely let him know. 

For years, Graham, who was selected 13th in the 2010 draft out of Michigan, was considered a major bust. To make matters much worse, the two guys taken after him (Thomas and Pierre-Paul) became All-Pros. 

All the hate bothered Graham in the beginning, but he eventually learned to block it out —  and block the haters quite literally on social media. All the while, he never gave up on himself, he kept working harder than just about anyone else in the building. And eventually he turned himself into a role player, then a starter and then a star. 

On Thursday, Graham rode down Broad Street as a fan favorite and a Super Bowl hero. 

"Ah man, it means so much because of the journey," Graham said on SportsCenter last week. "Like you said, what I've been through here in Philadelphia. Got hurt in the beginning. Went from a bust to a Super Bowl champion."

It was so fitting that it was Graham who made the biggest play of Super Bowl LII. After not getting much pressure on Tom Brady all game, Graham came through the middle with just over two minutes remaining to knock the ball away for a strip sack. It was the only time Brady was sacked all game. 

Just a few days earlier, defensive line coach Chris Wilson said the key in the game for his defensive linemen would be patience. Even if they weren't getting to Brady —  which was very possible —  they couldn't give up. They had to remain patient. 

Who knows more about patience than Graham? 

Earlier in his career, he needed major microfracture surgery that stunted his development. From there, he went through the Jim Washburn experience, and plenty of new coordinators and position coaches. When Chip Kelly came in 2013, Graham became an outside linebacker in a 3-4 and all of a sudden had to drop into coverage. 

He didn't become a starter until the 2015 season. He didn't become a star until last year when Jim Schwartz came to town and brought back the 4-3 alignment that allowed Graham to play to his strengths. Originally, when Schwartz came, Graham was supposed to be a bench player, but he was so good in training camp, he took over as a starter and hasn't given up his spot since. 

Graham has started all but one game in the last two seasons and has become the team's best pass-rusher. 

Not to mention, a Super Bowl hero. 

“It’s so much sweeter because of all the people that doubted me and doubted a lot of guys," Graham said last week. "Vinny (Curry) didn’t start off hot like he wanted to but he ended up getting better, we both did, and we both went through that fire of Washburn. It’s just one of those things where we had to keep fighting, and we fed off each other. All the hard work that we went through finally paid off."

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

During the 2016 season, Mike Wallace thought his Baltimore Ravens were going to steamroll the Eagles, who had a first-year head coach and first-year quarterback. 

He was wrong. 

Sure, the Ravens were able to sneak away with a 27-26 win back on Dec. 18, 2016, but Wallace watched up close as the gutsy Carson Wentz had the Eagles one two-point conversion at the end of the game away from walking out of Baltimore with a win. 

A year and a half later, when Wallace was testing free agency, the veteran receiver thought back to that game and thought to himself, “I want to play with that guy.” 

So how responsible is Wentz for Wallace’s landing in Philly? 

“Ninety-nine percent. Ninety-nine,” Wallace said at his introductory press conference on Friday afternoon after signing a one-year contract. “The other percent was the rest of the team. I’m impressed by the way he plays football, the way he moves in the pocket, the way he throws the football and his competitiveness. You can see it.”

Wallace, 31, continued to watch Wentz during the 2017 season, when the second-year quarterback was seemingly on his way to an MVP award before a serious knee injury landed him on injured reserve.  

Having been through changing teams before, Wallace said the most difficult part for him is learning the new quarterback. He hopes this process won’t take exceedingly long, but he and Wentz might be at a disadvantage. Wentz is still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL and might not be ready until the season opener, if that. 

“You can just work on that watching film and things like that, but until he gets out there, there’s no real way to simulate it,” Wallace said. “I think he’s a great young quarterback who’s fired up. Whatever extra reps we need to try to get up to speed, I’m all for it.”

Wentz is, of course, a part of the big reason Wallace decided to join the Eagles. Wallace has played nine seasons in the NFL with four different teams. He’s made money, but he hasn’t been able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That’s what he wants. 

On Friday, Wallace said he turned down more money to join the Eagles. 

“I had options but I just wanted the best chance,” Wallace said. “I feel like this is my best opportunity to make a run. This is my 10th year. Can’t play this game forever. You don’t want to come out feeling empty. I want to get a ring.”

Wallace had been a free agent twice before this offseason and he admitted, that when he was younger, free agency was about money. He signed a five-year, $60 million deal in 2013 to join the Dolphins. 

But now, Wallace said, his family is secure. He’s made a lot of money in the NFL to make sure those close to him are well off. Now, he’s allowing himself to make a decision that benefits him. 

“I didn’t try to come into this game to leave empty-handed,” he said. “I had to secure the bag and I did that. Now it’s time to secure a ring.”

Warrant issued for Michael Bennett's arrest

Warrant issued for Michael Bennett's arrest

Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett has been indicted for a felony charge in Harris County, Texas, the Harris County district attorney's office announced on Friday afternoon.

Because of the indictment, a warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest. According to the release, prosecutors are working with Bennett's lawyers to coordinate a surrender.

Bennett is being charged with "injury to the elderly, included intentionally and knowingly, causing bodily injury to a person 65 years or older." The penalty for the charge is up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The felony charge is for injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman who was working at NRG Stadium last year during Super Bowl LI, when Bennett was there to watch his brother Martellus play in the game. The Patriots played the Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.  

Bennett, 32, allegedly "shoved his way on to the field" during the postgame celebration, when the elderly worker told him to use a different way for field access. Instead, the district attorney's office said, Bennett pushed through workers, including the elderly disabled woman.

Neither the Eagles nor the Seahawks knew about the incident, a league source told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn. Bennett has been an Eagle officially for just over a week.

During a news conference on Friday afternoon, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo asked Bennett to turn himself in as quickly as possible, calling Bennett "morally bankrupt" and entitled. Acevedo said there is no video of the incident, but there is a police officer eye-witness.

Acevedo said Bennett forcibly opened locked doors to get onto the field and then pushed his way past three workers. One was a male, one was a 28-year-old female and one was a 66-year-old female, who sustained a sprained shoulder. The 66-year-old female is a paraplegic and the force of being pushed back in her motorized wheelchair is what injured her. Acevedo said the woman needed medication prescribed to her because of the alleged assault.

According to Acevedo, Bennett said, "Ya'll must know who I am, and I could own this motherf-----. I'm going on the field whether you like it or not," as he pushed past the women.

A police officer, called "Officer Morgan" by Acevedo, the same one who saw the alleged incident, then tried to stop Bennett, but Bennett disregarded him, saying "f--- you." The officer then decided to tend to the woman instead of pursuing the suspect, as he thought Bennett no longer posed a threat.

The extended time between the incident and the indictment was explained by Acevedo as a lack of resources. He said the department decided to handle cases that put citizens in danger. This was pushed to the back burner. He also said it was exceedingly difficult to get in touch with Bennett.

"Mr. Bennett may think because he's an NFL player and because some time passed he may have thought rules don't apply to him," Acevedo said. "No. 2 he doesn't have to respect the dignity of a paraplegic woman trying to earn a living. He may believe he doesn't have to answer to a police officer trying to detain him, but I'm here to say I'm very proud of the fact our department took this case as seriously as we should have."

The Eagles released the following statement on Friday afternoon:

"We are aware of the situation involving Michael Bennett and are in the process of gathering more information. Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time."

The Eagles officially traded for Bennett on March 14. They sent receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick to Seattle for Bennett and a seventh-rounder.