Eagles TE Brent Celek still hungry for title with time running out on career

Eagles TE Brent Celek still hungry for title with time running out on career

Brent Celek is under no illusions about where he is at this stage of his NFL career. Heading into his 11th year with the Eagles at age 32, any season could be Celek’s last.

“You try not think about that type of stuff,” Celek said Monday at the NovaCare Complex. “All I’m focused on is today, and then when I wake up again tomorrow, just focus on that day. At the end, it will reveal itself.”

Celek continued to take a back seat in the Eagles’ offense last season, his least productive as a pro with 14 receptions for 155 yards and no touchdowns. Zach Ertz has clearly taken over as the starting tight end, while Trey Burton was on the field for only about 10 percent fewer snaps than Celek.

Yet despite his dwindling role in the offense and declining ability, Celek is still savoring every day he has left in the league – and still chasing a ring.

“You never know when it’s your time,” Celek said. “You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get and try to seize the moment.”

Celek wants to continue playing football. He also wants to win a Super Bowl. Most of all, Celek really wants to do both of those things as a member of the Eagles.

There is no questioning where loyalties are for the tight end. Celek reportedly accepted a pay cut during the offseason, and while it’s unclear whether the Eagles would have moved on if he hadn’t, as always, he was willing to do what it took to help the club.

After a decade with the Eagles – a period in which he’s missed just one game – Celek is second only to long snapper Jon Dorenbos for the most tenured player on the roster.

“I don’t take that for granted,” Celek said. “I love this place, I love this city, and I want to be here for a long time.”

The question for the Eagles is how much longer will Celek remain a viable option?

Celek has been deployed as a blocking tight end with increasing frequency since 2013, but looked more lumbering than ever as a receiver in the passing attack last season while battling a rib injury. Meanwhile, his efficiency as a blocker has dropped off a bit in recent years as well.

Declining performance is to be expected at his age, and even Celek admits it isn’t as easy staying in playing shape as it once was.

“The older you get, it definitely gets a little bit tougher,” Celek said. “I mean, you guys probably know. … It’s a little bit harder, but it’s good. It’s been good for me, just have to work a little bit more.”

Celek’s pursuit of a championship is a big part of what motivates him to continue. Unfortunately, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record in 2016, missing the playoffs for the third season in a row. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, Celek’s second year in the league.

The Eagles aren’t exactly considered favorites to reach the Super Bowl this season, either, although Celek is keeping an open mind.

“There’s 32 good teams in the NFL,” Celek said. “Listen, you have to be great when it comes to playoff time. Our first focus is getting to the playoffs, but then you have to play well. We just have to be better than we have in years past.”

Celek also expressed optimism in the development of Carson Wentz and the rapport the quarterback is building with members of the offense entering his second NFL season.

“The more you work with somebody, you just get better together,” Celek said. “It’s him getting used to all the receivers, even some of the new guys and just becoming more comfortable with our offense.

“Carson, he picked it up pretty fast last year, but I think things are just going to continue getting better and better as time goes on.”

Time is luxury Celek may not have. He’s signed through 2018, and sounds very much on board with the Eagles for long haul, but even Celek acknowledges his career is nearing its end.

Celek isn’t going to quit. The Eagles can count on that. Whether he has enough left in the tank to see a rebuild through and help the team compete for a championship remains to be seen.

Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice


Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

Right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood were both back at Eagles practice Tuesday.
Johnson missed the Panthers game with a concussion he suffered against Cardinals, and Smallwood missed the last two games after hurting his knee against the Chargers.
Practice was closed Tuesday and the Eagles are not required to release an injury report until Thursday because of the long week, but a team official confirmed that Johnson practiced — which means he was cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol by an approved neurosurgeon.
Johnson was not in the locker room during the period it was open to the media, but Smallwood said he did practice without limitations and hopes to play against the Redskins Monday night.
"It's been coming along," Smallwood said. "Felt good these past couple days, since really after the Carolina game it started feeling good. I was full-go today, I practiced with the guys. ... I wasn't limited at all. It really didn't bother me much. I felt good today. Hopefully, later on in the week, I'll feel better as the week goes and I'll be playing Monday. I think I should be ready."
Smallwood rushed for 113 yards with a 3.9 average and caught seven passes for 56 yards in four games before getting hurt early in the Chargers game.
"Wendell obviously brings a lot to the table," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "He's that thrashing, downhill runner. He's got some explosiveness. He's a three-down back, he's good out of the backfield, he's really good in protection. It brings all those things."
Smallwood said he played "on adrenaline" with the injury but said his knee swelled up during the game.
Injuries have married Smallwood's career. He missed the last three games last year with a knee injury and missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury.
"I get frustrated a lot when I'm not in the game, not being out there to help and progress as the year goes on," he said. "So it frustrates me.
"But it happens. I've just got to suck it up and not pay attention to it. Just know I can bounce back and just try to get on the field as fast as I can."
Smallwood said he expects to be 100 percent Monday night in a huge divisional game against the Redskins at the Linc.
"I believe so," he said. "I'm not going to hold back any. I'm not going to think about it or get nervous. I have that confidence in myself. As the week's gone on, I just started feeling better about what I'm able to do."

Also, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, who became eligible to practice Wednesday after spending the first six weeks on the reserve-non football injury list, said he did not practice. Jones has been out since suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day in March.

Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

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Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

NEW YORK — A federal judge said he will rule Tuesday on an emergency request from attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty heard arguments from lawyers on both sides as the NFL Players Association scrambled to keep Elliott on the field after a federal appeals court last week overturned an injunction that had stopped the league's suspension.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, is on the suspended list. The Cowboys play at San Francisco on Sunday.

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.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFLPA, asked Crotty to prevent enforcement of the suspension for two weeks so that the Southern District of New York judge assigned to the case — Katherine Polk Failla — can return from a vacation and rule. Crotty concluded the hearing by saying he'd look at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Brady case before ruling by the end of the day on the union's request for a temporary restraining order.

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.

Kessler 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 their request for the temporary restraining order, Elliott's attorneys said NFL procedure required rosters to be set by 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no such deadline from the league's perspective.

NFLPA attorneys, working on Elliott's behalf, also said the league had already informed Elliott that he couldn't practice or play this week. The Cowboys returned to work Tuesday after their bye week and will have their first full practice Wednesday.

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 and announced the six-game punishment.

That led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses. Elliott has denied Thompson's allegations under oath.

The NFL placed Elliott on the suspended list a day after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a Texas court's injunction that kept Elliott on the field.

The case is shifting to New York because the New Orleans court ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Depending on the outcome in New York, Elliott's attorneys could still seek a rehearing with a larger panel of the appeals court, which they have indicated they would do.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because the arbitrator had yet to decide on the running back's appeal through the NFL. Elliott's attorneys have argued in subsequent filings that the dissenting judge in New Orleans agreed with the Texas judge's findings that the NFL appeal was unfair to Elliott.

Brady's suspension was served more than a year after it was imposed. A federal judge ruled against the NFL and overturned the suspension, but the league won an appeal.