kenjon barner

Eagles learn about Kobe Bryant's 'Mamba mentality'

Eagles learn about Kobe Bryant's 'Mamba mentality'

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rodney McLeod broke into a huge grin as he passed along the explanation from Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, an Eagles fan who grew up in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, spoke to the entire Eagles team Friday morning at their hotel in Costa Mesa, California.

How did Kobe explain his "Mamba mentality?" 

"A killer mentality," McLeod said. "He said literally every time he stepped on that court, he wanted to be the best. He wanted to go out there and kill the guy lining up across from them and make him feel like he didn't deserve to be on the court. Like literally, those were his words. 

"He wanted to make them feel like they shouldn't be a basketball player, they should be an accountant. That's what he said. And you see it when you watch him play. When you have that mindset, it's hard to beat a guy like that."

It takes someone truly great to leave a group of 63 professional athletes and their coaches in awe. Bryant is one of them. McLeod also said Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Derek Jeter would make the list. 

McLeod brought in a pen and pad of paper to take notes, but he ended up recording Bryant's talk and Q&A session in his brain. He didn't get an autograph, but he did get a photo with Bryant, which was good enough for him. 

"It's a dream come true, really," McLeod said. "Electric feeling for me. You just feel the energy and his presence as soon as he came in and talked to us." 

In the Eagles' media guide, McLeod lists Bryant as his favorite childhood athlete. Even though McLeod grew up in Maryland, Bryant's play and mentality won him over at a young age. McLeod considers Bryant to be the greatest basketball player of all time. 

A few thousand miles away from McLeod's childhood home, Kenjon Barner and Joe Walker grew up near Los Angeles, where Bryant was one of the best and most famous players in the NBA with the Lakers.

"It was really cool to see him walk in," said Walker, who, like Barner and McLeod, has Bryant listed as his favorite childhood athlete in the Eagles' media guide. "Growing up a little kid in L.A., I mean, he pretty much built this city."

Friday was the first time Walker had ever been around his childhood hero. But it wasn't the first time for Barner, who had actually met Bryant a few times before. 

Because Barner's cousin is former NBA player Andre Miller, he has been around NBA players for a long time. He doesn't really get starstruck, but the first time he met Bryant, it was something special: "It just makes you say, 'damn!'"

Upon overhearing Barner talk about all the times he had met Bryant before, fellow running back Wendell Smallwood gave him some grief in the overflow locker room at Angel Stadium. 

"He's so cool, Kobe isn't cool to him," Smallwood said. 

Barner stepped in. 

"It's still cool, man," he said. "It doesn't change."

Head coach Doug Pederson said there wasn't really an interesting story about how the Eagles got Bryant to their team hotel. The Eagles simply checked in with him to see if he was available. Bryant was, so he showed up. 

Pederson said a lot of Bryant's message was about focusing and paying attention to details.

That was the part of Bryant's talk that really seemed to stand out to Nelson Agholor, who is recognized as one of the hardest-working members on the team. 

"He's also a guy that has that dog in him when it's time to step on somebody's throat, he'll do that," Agholor said. "I think that was something I'll never forget." 

5 Minutes with Roob: Kenjon Barner back with his 'wide range of musicality'

5 Minutes with Roob: Kenjon Barner back with his 'wide range of musicality'

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles return specialist and running back Kenjon Barner:

Roob: We’re here with Eagles return specialist and running back Kenjon Barner. Welcome back to Philadelphia.

Barner: Thank you, thank you.

Roob: I've got to ask you. You were on the street without a job until the Eagles called you. You handled that really well and you had a really positive attitude after the Chargers let you go. What was that period of time like for you?

Barner: I said it before and I will say it again. God has a plan for your life, I trust that, and I wholeheartedly believe in that. When I got released, the next day I was out having fun on the lake with my friends and enjoying time with my family. Just patiently waiting because God has a plan and just trusting in that.

Roob: Now since you have been back you have been returning punts. I think you are fourth in the NFL in punt return average. What is the key on those returns for you? Is it vision, is it instinct?

Barner: It is all of the above, man. Trusting in the guys in front of me, not forcing it and letting the game come to you. Being patient and when you see something out there, hit it and be aggressive. Go out there with the mindset of making a play and making it.

Roob: When you look at this group of running backs with LeGarrette (Blount), Wendell (Smallwood), Donnel (Pumphrey), Darren (Sproles) and obviously Jay (Ajayi), as well as Corey (Clement) and you. There are obviously a lot of talented guys here. What is the key to making this thing work? You guys seem very unselfish.

Barner: That’s it. Just staying unselfish. Just knowing what we have within our room and what we have within our team and knowing what our team is about. This team is not a “me” team. It isn’t an individual-based team. We are a team and the true definition of a team, more of a family than anything. So constantly remembering that and reminding each other of that and not counting our reps but making our reps count whenever they come.

Roob: Now the Dallas game you get the first touchdown. It is interesting with all of the running backs you were the guy they started the game with. I guess it is tough on the defense because they don’t know what is going to happen and it must be fun for you guys? What was that like for you to start the game like that? That was a great catch by the way.

Barner: Man, it was a lot of fun. I mean any time you can do that against the Cowboys is a lot of fun and to contribute to a win. It is tough for a defense. I believe it is tough because you don’t know what exactly to game plan for or who to game plan for. Now watching film, guys are obviously going to run this type of play, run that type of play but then we switch things up. So I think it is definitely tough to game plan for our running back group.

Roob: I want to ask you something not football related. I was reading your bio and in everyone’s bio, it says what kind of music they like. Some guys like country, some like hip-hop and some like R&B. You listed among your favorite bands Rascal Flatts, Nickelback and Miguel. Now that is about as diverse as you can get without including some opera in there. Do you like all kinds of music?

Barner: I love music, man, and I always have. My parents listened to a lot of different music growing up. As I got older, I started to venture into alternative music, country music, classical music, musicals and stuff like that. I have a wide range of musicality on my iPod and I love it. Music can take you somewhere and I love music that does that.

Roob: Do you play an instrument?

Barner: Play the piano. I started playing that in college. I was in the band in the sixth grade and I played the bass clarinet but I don’t remember how to play it. I messed around with it a little bit.

Roob: Do you let the guys know you are a Rascal Flatts fan or do you keep that to yourself?

Barner: I let it be known. You get in my car, whoever gets in my car, you will never know what you are going to hear. Everybody here knows I am a country music fan and I love it. I prefer to listen to it over a lot of other brands of music.

Roob: I assume you are a guy that takes things one year at a time. You started in Carolina, you come here and then you are on the street, then you come back here and play well in 2015. Come back here, go to the Chargers, come back here. How important would it be for you to find a home and be here long term? Is that what you are after?

Barner: Obviously that is important. I’ll let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough worries of its own. My job is to worry about the things that I can control. Right now, the only thing I can control is the way I play, the way I go out there and perform, and anything outside of that is out of my hands. That is not something I stress myself or concern myself with. That is something this organization has to make a decision about or 31 organizations out there have to. You go out there and do your job and let the chips fall where they may.

Eagles unleash 4-headed RB monster vs. Cowboys

Eagles unleash 4-headed RB monster vs. Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Forget the three-headed monster of 2003. The Eagles have somehow invented a four-headed monster. And somehow it works.

On Sunday, the Eagles got contributions from four running backs in their 37-9 demolition of the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium (see Roob's observations). And that’s not supposed to happen.

New acquisition Jay Ajayi again showed tremendous explosiveness, gaining 84 of his 91 yards in the second half, including a 71-yard scamper run to set up a third-quarter TD. LeGarrette Blount had his best game in a while with 57 yards on 13 carries. 

Rookie Corey Clement once again did his thing, rushing just six times for 50 yards and a touchdown and also catching a two-point conversion. And even Kenjon Barner had a role Sunday night, with a career-long 22-yard catch and then his first touchdown of the season to open the game.

Four backs in uniform. All contributed. Not easy to do.

"Those guys all bring a different skill set," Carson Wentz said. "They do such a good job. The big boys up front lead the way with that. We can spread those guys out and use them at what they're best at. They make my job a heck of a lot easier."

Ajayi was getting 20 carries per game with the Dolphins. He has only 15 in two games with the Eagles but has certainly made the most of them. 

He’s the third player in NFL history with consecutive games of eight or fewer carries and 77 or more rushing yards. Former Eagle Felix Jones did it for the Cowboys in 2009 and Warren Williams for the Steelers in 1990.

Ajayi is also the first Eagle since Ricky Watters in 1996 with runs from scrimmage of 45 yards or more in consecutive games.

“It’s different,” Ajayi said. “It’s definitely not what I’m used to, but at the same time, it’s exciting to see all of us make plays. For me, whenever the number is called, just make your plays count and take advantage of your opportunities."

Sunday’s game was the Eagles’ first in 56 years in which three running backs each ran for at least 50 yards.

Last time it happened was also in Dallas — at the Cotton Bowl. On Oct. 22, 1961, Billy Ray Barnes [89 yards], Timmy Brown [66] and Ted Dean [76] did it in a 43-7 win over the Cowboys.

“Everybody has their role,” Clement said. “I have a specific role, LaGarrette, (Wendell) Smallwood, Kenyon, Jay, we’re not selfish out there. To have four guys in the rotation, it means a lot because defenses really can’t keep up with the style of running that we have.”

When training camp began, Blount was the No. 1 back and Darren Sproles, Smallwood and rookie Donnel Pumphrey were next in line. Of that group, only Blount was even in uniform Sunday night.

And they still ran for 215 yards, including 180 in the second half.

Ajayi and Barner both joined the team during the season, and Clement just keeps earning more and more playing time and more and more touches as an undrafted rookie. Blount has the fifth-highest per-carry average in the NFL among backs with at least 100 carries.

It’s a unique group. They each have different skill sets and they each have different roles and they each seem to genuinely not care who makes the big play.

And judging by the laughs and good-natured ribbing and trash talk in the locker room after Sunday's win, they all genuinely like each other.

“We’re all focused on ‘we,’ we’re not focused on ‘I,’” Barner said. “We all understand our roles, we all want to see the other guys do well, and we’re all unselfish. It starts with (position coach) Duce (Staley), who really sets the tone in the (meeting) room.”

The Eagles are now second in the NFL with 145 rushing yards per game, second only to the Jaguars' 161. They're tied for fourth at 4.6 yards per run

Their 2,313 rushing yards are their most through 10 games since 1949, when they had 2,317.

And they're doing it all without anybody on pace to rush for 900 yards.

“It all starts with preparation and everybody knows their role,” Blount said. “Everybody has a significant role on this team. All the backs do — me, Jay, Wendell, Corey, Kenjon, all the way down. Everybody has a role and they’re good at it and they all embrace it."