chris maragos

Eagles' championship offers a strong life lesson

Eagles' championship offers a strong life lesson

I still remember pretty vividly the first day most people thought the Eagles were dead. It was a Tuesday morning, the day after the Eagles' 34-24 win over Washington at home on Monday Night Football. 

Sure, the Eagles had moved to 6-1 on the season but after already losing Chris Maragos and Darren Sproles, they suffered two even bigger blows. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters, who were both carted off against Washington, were done for the season. 

"We still have a lot of football left," Doug Pederson said on Oct. 24. "We still have a game this Sunday and the season's not over." 

Of course, Pederson ended up being right. The Eagles weren't dead. They continued to win, continued to get stronger. But he had to rally his team again a couple months later when it lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. 

Again, a lot of people thought the Eagles were dead. They weren't.

No matter how it happened, the Eagles' first Super Bowl championship was going to be something memorable. But looking back at it, the way they won it made it even more special. The fact that they overcame multiple losses that would have killed most teams makes it incredible. 

Owner Jeff Lurie realized it too. 

And in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Lurie actually agreed that it would be special to win a championship with this specific team. 

"It would," he said at Super Bowl media night, six days before Super Bowl LII. "It would mean everything to win no matter what. But to win this way, I just think it would be a great message to the world that it's not always on paper. You can overcome so much and succeed in life. 

"This is the most resilient group of human beings I've ever watched or been a part of. I feel like that's a quality that really is incredible to have." 

As hokey as it sounds, Lurie's insight is worth remembering. What the Eagles overcame leaves a pretty incredible message of resilience. 

Of course, this all gets back to the underdog mentality and the masks and Jason Kelce's impassioned speech on the steps of the art museum. The Eagles used the idea that others were counting them out as fuel. They relished in the idea of doing something most deemed impossible. Maybe that made it all possible. 

But thinking about the talent they had on the sideline during Super Bowl LII — Sproles, Maragos, Peters, Hicks and Wentz — it's hard to not come away impressed that a team missing that many key players was able to take down one of the most impressive dynasties in NFL history. 

The fact that the Eagles were able to do it without those players probably has them thinking about getting those guys back for another run next year. That seems pretty possible; they'll get most of them back. 

But this specific team grew incredibly close and it's not hard to figure out why. Aside from natural chemistry, there's something about going through adversity that helps people grow closer. This team will never be the same, as many players began to note toward the end of the season. Some players will leave, while new guys will infiltrate the locker room. 

At least once they get those Super Bowl rings, they'll have them forever. And every time they look down and see it shining back at them, it'll serve as a reminder. The same reminder Eagles fans will get every time they think about their Super Bowl-winning team: It's possible to overcome so much. And if you do, the reward will be even sweeter.

How injured Eagles are coping with missing Super Bowl

How injured Eagles are coping with missing Super Bowl

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Every night before Chris Maragos falls asleep, he lies in his bed and thinks about running onto the football field with his teammates in Super Bowl LII. 

He won't get to do that on Sunday. 

His season as a player ended way back on Oct. 12, when he suffered a knee injury in Carolina. But he's continued to be a part of the team. He's continued to be a leader and a captain. 

And he's not the only one. 

"Honestly, I'd like to say that it's not pretty difficult, but I'd be lying if I said it was," Maragos said. "Obviously, it's disappointing not playing, but when I came to this organization I wanted to do anything I could to help this team win. Right now, my role is to help these guys from a mentorship role, from an experience role. That's my way of contributing. 

"I think as you come in and you have special seasons like this, everyone has to lay aside their pride, everyone has to lay aside their own goals and aspirations for the team."

In addition to Maragos, the Eagles have also lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis, and, of course, Carson Wentz. Every single one of those injured players is in Minnesota for Super Bowl week and they'll be watching as their teammates try to take down the Patriots on Sunday. 

They'll be cheering, they'll be offering advice, they'll be doing the same type of supportive things they've been doing all season. But this is the big game and they won't get to play. 

What will it be like to watch the Super Bowl? 

"Tough, but amazing," Hicks said. "These guys deserve everything. They have worked as hard as any team and are as close as any team I've seen. I'm excited, man. I know they're prepared. They're going to go out there, play loose and play great."

Pretty much every key injured player said the same thing this week. Of course it's going to hurt like hell to miss out on playing in what would have been one of the biggest games of their lives. That's natural. 

"As humans, we all want to be the competitors that we are and be out there on the field," Wentz said. "Every time the offense comes on the field on Sunday, it's tough. It hits me a little bit. But then I'm in it. I love these guys and I'm a part of this team as much as anybody else. I get involved in the game and that kind of all goes away. Without a doubt, as humans, it just feels ... it's tough. It's tough to not be out there, but I love watching these guys and I couldn't be happier." 

All of the injured players have been incredibly selfless all season. They've helped their teammates with whatever they possibly could. They're in film rooms, they're on the phone offering advice, sometimes they watch practice. 

They've been around for the whole ride, even when they weren't able to play anymore. 

"We all get together," Peters said. "Wentz goes with the quarterbacks and Hicks has the linebackers and we just support everybody. Maragos got the special teams. Sproles got the running backs. And I take care of the offensive line. We have support with every group."

The injured players said it's been helpful to have other key guys in the same position. They're able to commiserate and lean on each other when the tougher times come. 

Hicks and Maragos have talked about it before when they have lunch together in the NovaCare Complex while everyone else is off working out and practicing. It would be a lot harder if they weren't together. 

And the season would be a lot harder on everyone if these key leaders didn't stay involved. Lucky for the Eagles, they did.  

"It's been difficult all year," Hicks said. "Can't sugarcoat it. It's been tough. But you roll with it and you learn from it and you try to find different ways to help. Your role changes and it is what it is. Right now my role is having a different perspective and sharing it. That's part of the leadership role. You go down but you're still a leader."

Eagles' vets warn about Super Bowl nonsense

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USA Today Images

Eagles' vets warn about Super Bowl nonsense

They've never experienced anything like it before, and they never will again.

The Super Bowl and the week leading up to it are like nothing else in sports. Or on Earth.

It's seven days of insanity, and the Eagles' numerous Super Bowl veterans have been counseling the rest of the team since the NFC Championship Game victory not only on what they're about to face but also how to deal with it.

"They might think it's going to be like a bowl game," Torrey Smith said. "But it's nothing like a bowl game."

The Eagles spent the last week practicing in the relative calm of the NovaCare Complex in South Philly. On Sunday, the team travels to Minneapolis for a week of hype leading up to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium a week later.

"There's a lot going on," said Corey Graham, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2012. "A lot of parties. A lot of shows, events. Your family wants your time. They want to enjoy it with you. Everyone's always calling you for this and for that. 

"You have to try to avoid all that. If you're not a strong-minded person and don't know how to say no, you can get caught up in it. You have to realize why you're there. You're there for a football game. You're not there to enjoy it. 

"You're not there to be out there partying and going to all that nonsense. The better you are at understanding the main purpose, the better off you'll be."

Smith and Graham are among six Eagles on the 53-man roster who've played in a Super Bowl: Smith, Graham and Donnell Ellerbe with the Ravens, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long with the Patriots, Malcolm Jenkins with the Saints and Will Beatty with the Giants. Chris Maragos, who's on injured reserve, won one with the Seahawks. 

Doug Pederson has used most of those guys in the past week to address the players, both as a group and individually, to share their wisdom and experience.

“You’ve got to be a professional," Blount said. "I told the young guys that you've just got to be a professional. It’s hard to control your emotions. 

"As rookies and stuff, even if they’ve played in a national championship, they still haven’t played in a game of this magnitude. It’s tough. It’s a long week, and you’ve just got to control your emotions.

“There’s going to be a lot of distractions as far as family and friends and media. You’ve got to put all that in the drawer, toss all that aside for however long it takes us to prepare for this game. 

"Don’t worry about anything that’s going to cause you any stress or any kind of emotional backup. Whatever it might be, you just put it away and focus 100 percent on this game."

Maragos said one positive that's come out of his season-ending knee injury is his ability to see the big picture in a way the guys on the active roster can't.

"Unfortunately, I'm not playing, but I'm grateful to have the opportunity to see things from a broader perspective," Maragos said. "All these guys are narrowed in on their job and what they're doing and maybe I can really give these guys a different viewpoint, having been through it.

"Just give these guys a foreshadowing of what's to come. 'Hey, listen, on this day, expect this, on this day, expect that.' Trying to give them the ability to kind of see things ahead of time, so they're a little bit more prepared when they get there."

Media Night is Monday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Tuesday through Thursday, there will be extensive media obligations at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Friday and Saturday everything shuts down. Sunday is game day.

It will take forever to get here.

"Don't get caught up in all the stuff that's going on outside," Graham said. "Don’t get caught up with your family and all the festivities and all the nonsense. Keep it exactly the same way it is when you're at home. 

"Normal work week. If you normally get your message on Tuesday and your chiropractor on Wednesday and all that stuff, keep it the same. Don't do anything different. 

"Obviously it's an important event and a great time for you and your family, but don't get caught up in the nonsense. You can enjoy it afterward. You’ve got to focus on the task at hand because with the Super Bowl, if you're not winning, it's a waste of time."