Mychal Kendricks

Mychal Kendricks glad Eagles didn't give in to his request

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Mychal Kendricks glad Eagles didn't give in to his request

During the 2017 offseason, Mychal Kendricks asked the Eagles to trade him. The club did not oblige.

We know now how that decision turned out for everybody. The Eagles are in the Super Bowl, and Kendricks will play a massive role in the game. That's what you call a happy ending.

The Eagles were fortunate. Some NFL players would've held out or become a distraction when their demands were not met. Others might've approached their jobs with indifference or apathy.

But Kendricks put the team first. The 27-year-old linebacker worked hard and waited for his opportunity.

The result has been satisfying for all parties involved.

"You just have to work with whatever the situation is," Kendricks said Thursday. "We're in a great position right now to win the Super Bowl, to go and do great things. It's pretty cool."

Kendricks was previously disgruntled over his playing time, which diminished last season after the Eagles named Jim Schwartz defensive coordinator and changed schemes. A starter and every-down player his first four seasons in the league, Kendricks was on the field for only roughly a quarter of the defense's snaps in 2016.

Whether the front office didn't want to weaken the depth at linebacker, or the offers were unspectacular, the Eagles decided to hold on to Kendricks. Whatever their reasons, a season-ending injury to Jordan Hicks found Kendricks playing fulltime again in '17.

Not only that, but Kendricks responded with a strong season after back-to-back disappointing campaigns. With 87 tackles, 2.0 sacks and seven pass breakups, including playoffs, he probably even played well enough to get on another team's radar this coming offseason.

For the time being, at least, Kendricks seems content with being back on the field.

"I'm having fun because I'm playing," Kendricks said. "It's always fun to play the game."

Kendricks' story is in stark contrast to many of his teammates. He might be the only player in the Eagles' locker room who didn't want to be here when the season began.

Center Jason Kelce was relieved when offseason trade rumors didn't come true, for example, whereas wide receiver Jordan Matthews was devastated when the club dealt him to the Bills in August.

Some players went so far as to make sacrifices to be part of this team. Defensive end Chris Long opted not to re-sign with the defending world champion Patriots in March, instructing his agent to call the Eagles instead (see story). Quarterback Nate Sudfeld turned down a spot on the Redskins' 53-man roster to join the Eagles' practice squad.

Kendricks' journey was nothing like theirs — although, the one thing he wouldn't trade is his experience this season.

"I don't think about things once they're done," Kendricks said. "I'm a true believer in the universe. I'm a big believer in the universe, and the cosmos and stars aligning.

"Things happen for a reason. It all worked out. If I would have been in a different predicament, we wouldn't be talking about this. I'm obviously sitting here today talking to you, going to the Super Bowl. I don't think I'd want it any other way."

With his offseason trade demand in the rearview mirror, Kendricks hopes reflecting on the past doesn't elicit negative emotions in others. It certainly shouldn't. What makes his story great is the classy manner with which he conducted himself all year, even before the playing-time increase and success that followed.

"Judge me for today, not for anything that happened a long time ago," Kendricks said.

Then Kendricks issues a reminder that life will go on after the Super Bowl, a realization that had not yet occurred to many of us. And when this ride ends in less than two weeks, Hicks will be coming back from injury, and — assuming impending free agent Nigel Bradham is re-signed — the Eagles will again have a logjam at linebacker.

"After this season, we'll be right back at square one, right? Every season is a new season," Kendricks said.

This could be Kendricks' final game in an Eagles uniform, or the club could keep him next season, when he carries a cap hit of $7.6 million. Either way, you can count him to roll with the punches.

Kendricks brothers go to extremes before facing off Sunday

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Kendricks brothers go to extremes before facing off Sunday

Last season, when the Vikings came to town for a regular season game, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks and his brother Eric, a linebacker for Minnesota, enjoyed the experience. They talked all week leading up to the game, they got together on Saturday night before and greeted each other on the field Sunday. 

That's not happening this week when their two teams face off in the NFC Championship Game at the Linc.  

The stakes are just too high. 

"None of that has gone down this week," Mychal Kendricks said Friday afternoon. "I don't see it happening before the game or after the game or Saturday night. This is the biggest game of our lives to this date and nothing else matters." 

It's not like 27-year-old Mychal and 25-year-old Eric talk a ton during the regular season anyway. Sure, they're close, but each is pretty busy once the games start coming. But not talking at all? This is new and it's just because of how important Sunday is to both of them. 

The last time they spoke was Sunday night after the Vikings pulled off a last-second win to put them in the championship game. The two spoke about their family and arranging tickets for them to get to the Linc. After that ... silence. 

Kendricks even said he could foresee a scenario like what happened after Jim and John Harbaugh coached each other in the Super Bowl and didn't speak for a little while after. 

Either way, the bragging rights from this game will be monumental. 

"Oh my god," Kendricks said before pausing. "Dude, I don't know if he'll ever hear the end of this. Unless we come back to the same situation, which is obviously possible. It happened once, it can happen again. But, dude, whoever loses, it's going to be messed up." 

Just because the brothers haven't spoken this week, it doesn't mean the uniqueness of the situation is lost on them. 

It's not incredibly rare for pairs of brothers in the NFL. Heck, Kendricks isn't even the only Eagles' player whose brother is in the league. But two brothers, who play the same position, meeting for the right to go to the Super Bowl? 

"I really want to know the odds," Kendricks said. "So anyone out there who's a mathematician and wants to entertain themselves with this, let me know the odds because it's crazy. It's unreal and it's the opportunity of a lifetime. It's something that we will remember forever."

While Mychal Kendricks is obviously the oldest — he called himself "the trailblazer" — he didn't bite when asked if he's the favorite son. He said that while his dad thinks it's funny to instigate that competition, his family is pretty good about not playing favorites. He's not sure what the family will wear Sunday but thought half-and-half jerseys sounded like something his mom and sister might wear. 

There's obviously a sibling rivalry between the two. They grew up playing sports against each other and competing.  

Being older, Mychal said there was a time when he hit a growth spurt first and began dominating his little brother. But then Eric caught up and things were even until Eric actually grew taller and started winning more often than he lost. That's when Mychal said he had to approach those matchups a little differently. 

Mychal went to the University of California and was the Eagles' second-round pick in 2012. Eric went to UCLA and was the Vikings' second-round pick in 2015. Both are listed as 6-foot linebackers. 

Their football paths have been so similar until this point. But only one will get to play in Super Bowl LII. 

"It's unreal," Kendricks said. "I've tried not to think about it just because I've lived in a room with this kid for 17 years, you know what I mean? And we've pretty much lived the same lives on opposite sides of our state. And now we're on different teams and we're in the same scenario, playing the same position. It's crazy, man."

From street free agent to Eagles' starting LB in 6 weeks

Photo: NBCSP

From street free agent to Eagles' starting LB in 6 weeks

In a matter of six weeks, Dannell Ellerbe appears to have gone from street free agent to the Eagles' starting middle linebacker.

After lining up for all of one defensive snap in his first five games with the Eagles, Ellerbe popped up in a prominent role in the 19-10 win Monday over the Raiders. The veteran made the start at MIKE and was on the field for 39 percent of the plays.

From the sound of things, this wasn't a one-off, either. The middle linebacker job appears to be Ellerbe's.

"It's probably more the way we're leaning going forward," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Wednesday.

While Ellerbe's expanded role was somewhat unexpected, Schwartz indicated the move had been in the works for some time.

"He had a lot of things we liked, it just wasn't an overnight thing getting him in there," Schwartz said. "But he's worked really hard at it, and I think it showed in the game."

The Eagles have been searching for a solution in the middle since Jordan Hicks was lost for the season to a ruptured Achilles in Week 7.

Nigel Bradham has taken on Hicks' play-calling responsibilities, but he and fellow starter Mychal Kendricks are natural outside linebackers. Second-year player Joe Walker auditioned in the middle but had not played since suffering a stinger against the Bears in November. Special teams ace Najee Goode got some looks as well.

Yet it seems Ellerbe was being groomed to take over from the beginning. Signed during the Eagles' bye week, the 32-year-old just needed time to get up to speed.

"Just like any other player," Schwartz said, "he's still got a long way to go, but I like the way he's trending, and we think that he can help us going forward."

Ellerbe wasn't with an NFL team during training camp or OTAs, and he likely needed time just to get back into football shape. Schwartz's scheme was also new to Ellerbe, who primarily played weakside linebacker in stops with the Saints, Dolphins and Raiders.

With the playoffs quickly creeping up, it was time to see what the Eagles' new toy could do vs. the Raiders.

"He's a tough, inside-run defender," Schwartz said, "used his hands well, was active, stepped up, and made a big tackle for a loss in that game."

In what was essentially his Eagles debut, Ellerbe finished with four tackles in 27 snaps and played four snaps on special teams as well.

Despite being named the starter, Ellerbe may not play as prominent a role every week. Bradham and Kendricks remained the linebackers in the Eagles' nickel package, which means Ellerbe's workload will hinge on how opposing offenses choose to attack.

Even in a limited capacity, Ellerbe brings something to the MIKE spot his competition did not: experience.

Ellerbe has appeared in 89 games, including playoffs, making 50 starts. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2012 and has been a productive player in the league for a long time. Injuries were the only reason he was on the street in the first place.

Apparently healthy and up to speed, Ellerbe is ready to make an impact for the Eagles, exactly as Bradham predicted at the time of the signing.

"For us following the game for some time, we've all seen him play," Bradham said back in November. "He's a physical, hard-nosed linebacker. He has speed. He's going to be a great addition for us, and he added depth. We're even deeper now."