Brent Celek still chasing dream in potential final season with Eagles

Brent Celek still chasing dream in potential final season with Eagles

Brent Celek is going to savor every rep at practice, treasure every day with his teammates, enjoy every last moment in meetings.
Because he knows this could very well be the end.
“I’m trying to have the attitude like, 'This could be it for me,'" Celek said after practice Wednesday. "I think when you have that attitude you think differently and you take advantage of things a little bit more. You pay attention to the details a little bit more. I’m just trying to have a different attitude about it."
Celek, now in his 11th training camp with the Eagles and entering the final year of his contract, looks no different from the 22-year-old rookie fifth-round draft pick that made the team in 2007 ahead of Lee Vickers.
Working mainly against linebackers and safeties who were in middle school when he began his Eagles career, Celek is enjoying a fine training camp as he approaches his 33rd birthday.
He's no longer the big-time receiving threat he once was, but he's still the Eagles' best blocking tight end and a respected locker room voice.
And he's going to make sure he enjoys every minute of his 11th — and perhaps final — NFL season.
"I played with a lot of guys here that were some of my best friends that are no longer here and I know a lot of them wish they could still go out there on game day and still do things," he said. "I do it for that, I do it for these guys in the locker room. I love this game.
“Shoot, this is my dream, to play in the NFL, so any opportunity you get you take advantage of it."
Celek has played 159 games in an Eagles uniform, seventh most in franchise history. If he plays all 16 games this year — and he's only missed one game in 10 seasons — he'll move up to fifth place, behind only David Akers, Brian Dawkins, Harold Carmichael and presumably Jon Dorenbos.
Chuck Bednarik is the only player who's played his entire career with the Eagles to play more games.
"I’m trying to enjoy every moment of it because it could be taken away at any moment," he said. "Especially where I’m at with my age. I’m trying to make the most of every opportunity."
Celek began his career backing up L.J. Smith, then, from 2009 through 2013, he averaged over 50 catches for about 700 yards, numbers only five other tight ends matched during that five-year period. Now he's a blocking specialist, although he can still catch the football and trample a couple guys when he gets the chance.
In all, Celek has 385 catches for 4,868 yards and 30 touchdowns. He ranks fourth in catches, eighth in yards and 12th in TDs in Eagles history.
“I think the biggest thing that stands out to me about Brent Celek is that he’s missed one game in his career. In 11 years," long-time friend and teammate Jason Kelce said. "He played one year with a torn labrum and both of his hips were screwed up.
"You want to talk about a guy who does anything he can for the team, goes out there and plays through everything, practices through everything, and I think guys who take mentalities like that, those guys stick around for a while because the organization respects you, the other players respect you.
"He’s just a special guy. Not only is he a great player, he’s special with the work ethic and leadership he brings every day. It just means a lot to us.”
Eleven years in, Celek is healthy and fit, but he said it takes more and more each year to stay that way.
He said he still uses a lot of the fundamentals of the sports science program Chip Kelly brought to the NovaCare Complex in 2013.
“I still feel like I can do a great job out there, I’ve just got to do a lot of extra stuff off the football field," he said.
"I have to. If I don’t stretch before I go to bed or don’t wake up early and stretch, work out, get my body feeling right, I won’t last very long, I can tell you that. But when I do those things I feel great, so I’ve just got to stay on it. The older you get, the more you have to work at it to get back to feeling good."
The last Eagle to play over 100 games and never spend a day with another organization was linebacker Byron Evans, who played 113 games from 1987 through 1994. Before that, it was Mike Quick, who played 101 games from 1982 through 1990.
Celek, whose three-year, $13 million contract is up after this year, would love to join that elite group.
“That would be ideal, I would love that," he said. "I love this organization, everything they’ve done for me. They’ve been outstanding. Now it’s time for me to give back and let’s try to win something here. Because that’s what matters.
"The city deserves that, this organization deserves that, and it’s my job to help lead this team to do that, so I’ve got a big job to do."
Celek is the only position player left from the 2008 run to the NFC Championship Game, so he's the only position player remaining who's actually won a postseason game as an Eagle.
That was nine years ago.
“When you go to the championship game your second year, you’re thinking, ‘OK, we’ve got a great football team, we’re going to be back here and do this again,'" Celek said.
"But you can’t take those things for granted. You’ve got to work like you’ve never been there before. We’ve got to do everything in our power to get back there because that’s all that matters. This city only cares about Super Bowl. They don’t care about anything else.”

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

With a 5-1 record, the Eagles sit all alone atop the division and conference standings, and are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Their quarterback was recently given the best odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. So, yes, right now, a trip to the Super Bowl seems to be very much on the table for this squad.

But take it from LeGarrette Blount, somebody who’s won a couple of world championships — the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in the hysteria right now.

“We could lose 10 in a row,” Blount said Tuesday. “We could go 6-10, so we don't want to jump the gun, jump to conclusions. We want to make sure we take it week by week, day by day, keep a level head and make sure we're going to be ready for whoever the next opponent is.”

Blount is one of only five Eagles players with a Super Bowl ring and the only member of the roster who owns multiple. The veteran running back won two of the last three years with the New England Patriots organization, which has been a perennial championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.

In other words, Blount knows better than anybody inside the Eagles’ locker room exactly what it takes to not only reach the big game and come away victorious but also how to sustain that success.

“You have to stay grounded,” Blount said. “You have to stay humble and make sure that all the guys that are in the building are on the same page. The coaches, the staff, everybody is on the same page, ignoring the noise, not worrying about what other teams are doing, what other teams' records are – just worrying about ourselves and locked into us.”

Easier said than done given the week the Eagles just had.

After going to Carolina and upending a tough Panthers squad on Thursday night, the Eagles watched as massive blows were being dealt to some of their stiffest competition over the weekend. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, potentially crippling one of the NFC’s elites for the remainder of the season. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting word on the status of a six-game suspension that could seriously hamper the division rival.

But the noise can also be Eagles fans and their exponentially rising expectations, or a media that’s quick to point out any tiny flaw and raise controversy.

Blount has experienced the latter firsthand. Two weeks into the 2017 campaign, he finished a game without a carry — an Eagles’ loss — and was averaging 3.0 yards per carry going back to the preseason. The constant questions coming from reporters about his role easily could have become a distraction.

In the four weeks since, Blount has 344 yards on 56 carries for a 6.1 average. He never allowed the noise to get to him, instead becoming a big reason behind the ongoing four-game winning streak.

“We know what we've been doing to get to this point,” Blount said. “We know what it takes, so we just have to buy in to continue to do that, and continue to do every that it takes to continue winning games.

“A big part of it is just making sure you ignore the noise, don't listen to the outsiders, everything that is in house stays in house, and that you make sure and know that everybody that you see on TV isn't in your corner. Sometimes that can discourage the younger guys. Every now and then you'll hear them say, 'Oh, did you hear them say this,' or, 'Did you hear them say that? Or, 'Did you see this,' or 'Did you see that?'

“The big part is making sure that everybody ignores that stuff.”

Blount has been through extraordinary highs and lows in his football career and learned to maintain an even keel. But Eagles leadership has also done a tremendous job insulating players from the kinds of rumblings that have a tendency to create discord and cause entire seasons to come off the rails.

For evidence, look no further than rumors that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was trying to undermine head coach Doug Pederson — and how quickly such talk dissipated.

“The veteran groups have a lot to do with it,” Blount said. “I also think the coaches have a lot to do with it — keeping the guys grounded, keeping the guys to where we have to continue to come here and work if we want to continue the success.

“Most of the young guys, all of them have bought into the program, and everybody's locked in and knows their role and what they want to do.”

While Blount wouldn’t go so far as to draw parallels between the ways the Eagles and the Patriots handle distractions, it’s clear he’s been able to quickly establish a bond with his new teammates and coaches since signing in May.

“Every team is different,” Blount said. “I can't compare this team to the New England teams, or any other team. We have a really close-knit team. We believe in each other. Everybody loves each other and we have each other’s backs.”

As far as Blount’s performance on the field is concerned, the best may be still to come. He’s finished with at least 12 carries in each of the last four games and looked explosive and elusive while doing it. And with extra rest between a Thursday night game in Carolina and this Monday’s contest at home against Washington, the bruising runner said he’s feeling refreshed.

Most of all, it sounds as though Blount is in a great frame of mind and feeling comfortable with all of his surroundings. And if you’re looking for a great read on the Eagles’ situation through six games, just listen to the guy who’s come to expect confetti and parades in February.

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

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Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott was granted another legal reprieve Tuesday night in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A New York federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling came five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.

Crotty granted the request for the restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Failla, who is on vacation.

The NFL was ordered to appear before Failla on or before Oct. 30 to argue why the suspension should not be blocked by a preliminary injunction -- the next step in the legal process -- until the court can rule on challenges the players' union brought against the suspension.

"We are confident our arguments will prevail in court when they are taken up again later this month," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the league's favorable ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement in August led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

In an opinion accompanying the ruling, Crotty agreed with the Texas judge who had backed the claims of Elliott's attorneys. Crotty wrote that Henderson's denial of testimony from Goodell and Thompson was significant because of credibility issues related to Thompson.

"In effect, (Elliott) was deprived of opportunities to explore pertinent and material evidence, which raises sufficiently serious questions," Crotty wrote.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the players' union, said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm -- among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted -- faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed. In his opinion, Crotty agreed.

Nash suggested during the hearing that the union was overstating its claims of irreparable harm.

"In their view, an NFL player missing six games is the end of the world," he said.

Brady managed to delay his suspension for a year through the union's court challenges. He served it to start last season, when the Patriots went 3-1 without him and later won the Super Bowl.

Elliott's case shifted to New York after the appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott's lawsuit, which Judge Amos Mazzant did earlier Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because Henderson had yet to decide on the running back's NFL appeal.

Elliott's legal team indicated it intended to pursue rehearing before a larger panel of the appeals court while also filing for the restraining order in the Southern District of New York.

The NFL filed in the New York court after Elliott's NFL appeal was denied because the league considers it the proper venue as the home of its headquarters and the site of the hearings before Henderson. It's also where the NFL won the Brady case in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.