Will Beatty is back in the NFL after signing with the Eagles on Tuesday, and he brought his crazy facemask with him.
Beatty started 63 games during the previous eight seasons with the New York Giants, primarily at left tackle. Yet the former second-round draft pick may be better known for his unusual headgear — a helmet equipped with a visor and five-bar facemask.
By no means is Beatty’s facemask intended to be a fashion statement. More like a token of the struggles to continue his career.
“It looks cool, but I would rather not have went through what I had to go through to get it,” Beatty said Wednesday after practicing with the Eagles for the first time.
Beatty began wearing the mask following season-ending surgery to repair a detached retina in 2011 — a freak injury. He returned, healthy, and over the course of the next three years, the helmet became a cute sidebar for television broadcasts while Beatty quietly played a solid tackle.
Then another freak injury struck. Beatty never saw the field in 2015, hurting his shoulder while lifting weights during the offseason. Two surgeries later, he was released by the Giants, eventually rejoining the team as a backup in time for the ’16 campaign.
Beatty has lined up for all of seven snaps over the past two and a half seasons, including exhibition games. He’s expected to serve as a backup for the Eagles as well, and at 32 years old, who knows if he’ll have many opportunities to play again.
Despite all of the trials and tribulations, Beatty never considered retirement, and his passion certainly never waned.
“I can’t say I would be here if it wasn’t for the things that happened to me, all the adversity,” Beatty said. “I’m playing this game because I love playing this game. I got out there on the field today, and literally everything that happened the past few months, it all washed away.”
As the weeks went by, Beatty admits he wasn’t sure another chance would come his way. But he kept preparing as if it would. When the Eagles called, he was in Arizona, working out at a gym owned by former Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.
Beatty wasted no time. He was on a plane hours later, then under contract all within the same day.
“It’s a blessing to be back here, being out here with the players,” Beatty said. “Out there on the field, I feel like I’m at home, so it’s just good to be here. Whatever I can do to help out the team, I’m more than willing.”
The question now becomes what can Beatty do to aid the Eagles? Obviously, the offensive line can use the depth after left tackle Jason Peters went down for the year, but is Beatty still that player?
During that healthy three-year stretch with the Giants, Beatty was arguably one of the top tackles in the league. He finished among the top-20 highest-graded tackles twice, according to Pro Football Focus, including a tie for eighth in 2012.
“I’ve been around the league for awhile,” Beatty said. “I still feel young. I still feel like there’s a lot that I can contribute. I had years going up against great defenses.”
But Beatty hasn’t played in years, not even exhibition games. There’s no way to get a sense of how he will perform at this stage, after injuries and age have taken their toll.
It seems Beatty is relying on experience and sheer desire as his greatest assets.
“Football, the game I love, it hasn’t changed,” Beatty said. “It’s still the same. I’m not coming here thinking I’m going to be Superman and do something different. I’m just being me, having fun, trying to make myself better and my teammates as well.”
For his part, Beatty believes the time off could even be beneficial.
“(The Eagles) are coming off a bye week. I’m coming off a very long bye week,” Beatty said. “I’m extremely fresh right now, and I’m using that to my advantage.”
It’s going to be interesting if he’s pressed into action. Listed at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Beatty says he weighed in around 300 and didn’t know if the Eagles will want him to bulk up. He also needs to learn the playbook before he can do anything.
As far as resilience is concerned, Beatty appears to have no shortage of it. The facemask that everybody will be talking about the moment he gets into a game is a testament to that.
Beatty is determined to stay in the NFL, and based on that alone, it’s difficult to imagine he’ll fail the Eagles. Now that he finally made it, that’s the only thing that matters.
“Everything that’s in the past means nothing,” Beatty said. “New team, same person, so all I have to do is be myself and make sure that I’m giving this team everything I have each day.”