Philly teams on fire since the Super Bowl

Philly teams on fire since the Super Bowl

Admit it, Sunday was a tough day. No Eagles football or the anticipation of a game the following week was a tough pill to swallow. Granted, these are first-world sports fans problems. Winning your first-ever Super Bowl should carry Birds fans a long way. But it was a weird reality to come to grips with. Guess what? If this is the harsh reality of the Philadelphia sports landscape, it ain’t all that bad.

The Flyers and the Sixers have gone a combined 7-0 since the Eagles beat the Patriots. Phillies pitchers and catchers report for spring training on Wednesday. And barring a collapse or more injuries, Villanova projects as a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Jinxed? Cursed? Negadelphia? Not even close.

The Sixers have won three straight heading into action Monday night vs. the Knicks. That includes nine in a row at home. They are 13-6 since Dec. 30. They are currently the 8-seed in the NBA Eastern Conference but are just two games out of the 5-seed and 2½ back of the four spot. They’ve accomplished this despite not having Markelle Fultz for virtually the entire season.

Knocking on the biggest 2x4 I can find, Joel Embiid has been relatively healthy the entire season. Minute restrictions are a memory and he is now playing back-to-backs. He has been a dominant force on both ends and is an All-Star. Ben Simmons should be the Rookie of the Year. He should be playing in this weekend’s All-Star Game but he is not. Despite the early calls for his head, Brett Brown appears to be able to coach. Funny what some talent will do.

After losing 10 straight in late November into December, the Flyers have gone 20-8-2. They just knocked off a Las Vegas team on the road that had been 19-3-2 at home. The same Golden Knights team was 22-2-0 when scoring first. The Flyers allowed the first goal, then ripped off four unanswered to win on the strip. They’ve won four straight overall and sit in third in the Metropolitan Division.

Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Ivan Provorov have had monster seasons. But the biggest difference in this club now compared to earlier in the season is the contributions from guys like Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick. Credit Ron Hextall for standing by his man, Dave Hakstol, when the heat was on a couple of months back.

Just the mere mention of spring training warms the heart. The Phillies' lineup will be very intriguing with the emergence of Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams last year to go along with Odubel Herrera. That’s a young, strong outfield nucleus. Add a veteran bat like Carlos Santana to go along with Caesar Hernandez, J.P. Crawford, and Scott Kingery, who we will be seeing at some point early in the season, and 1 through 8 in this lineup has the potential to be legit.

The bullpen also looks to be a strength. Yes, there are a ton of questions regarding the starting rotation beyond Aaron Nola. We have no idea what kind of manager Gabe Kapler will be but the needle appears headed up for the Phils.

College hoops
Villanova being in the national championship conversation every year is now commonplace. A credit to the machine Jay Wright has built. It just needs to get healthy to make another run. And don’t look now but Temple has heated up to the tune of eight wins in its last 10. The Owls are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Penn is tied atop the Ivy once again. We could be looking at three or more local teams in the Big Dance.

So while it may not be the Eagles, things are pretty darn good in the world of Philadelphia sports. How many days until training camp?

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

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More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

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Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.