With Jordan Hicks hurt and then Joe Walker hurt, the Eagles turned to veteran Dannell Ellerbe as their first-down linebacker late in the season.
Ellerbe, a nine-year veteran and a Super Bowl winner with the Ravens in 2012, signed with the Eagles on Nov. 13, and after playing just one snap his first five weeks here, he played 27 in the win over the Raiders and 48 in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys.
We spoke with Ellerbe about Ray Lewis, winning the Super Bowl and what he likes about this Eagles team on this week's "5 Minutes with Roob."
Roob: You came into the league as an undrafted free agent back in 2009. What were the challenges of starting your career undrafted?
Ellerbe: Originally, I was on the scouting reports with a first-round grade going into the draft, but I got hurt and some other things came up. So I just wanted to show that I belonged in the league. You have a guy with a first-round grade who’s an undrafted free agent, it’s not because of his play. So I decided to go to the Ravens because they’re known for defense, and it worked out.
Roob: You got to play from 2009 through 2012 in Baltimore with Ray Lewis. What was that like?
Ellerbe: One of the greatest to ever do it. He was a great guy to study and the energy that he brings, I haven’t been with anybody like him since.
Roob: You intercepted Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game back in 2012, helping the Ravens get to the Super Bowl. What's it like picking off the greatest quarterback ever on that stage?
Ellerbe: Our defense was clicking on all cylinders. So it was great. Everybody was making plays, so it was just my turn to make my play. I had a broken thumb so I had a big cast on my hand, and that made it even more special.
Roob: How tough was it being on the street the first three months of this season?
Ellerbe: I knew I was going to get picked up sooner or later. I was just trying to treat my body right and trying to stay in shape and keep working out. I got away from the game completely. I didn’t watch any games until I started getting interest from teams. I just wanted to be fresh.
Roob: Why did you ultimately choose to sign with the Eagles?
Ellerbe: I came here because this was the team that really wanted me. There was no turning them down.
Roob: How hard is it to get into shape to play regular-season football without a training camp?
Ellerbe: The only way you can be in football shape is to play football. Even when I come to training camp, I’m prepared, but the only way you can prepare to play football is to play football and getting those reps.
Roob: You’ve been here two months now. What’s your impression of this team?
Ellerbe: It’s like a family. It’s like a family. It’s like we felt when I was at the Ravens. Everybody vibing with everybody and everybody getting along. It just feels like a family atmosphere.
Roob: You’re one of several guys on this team that's won a Super Bowl. Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Torrey Smith, LeGarrette Blount. What can you guys who’ve been to the top of the mountain teach the younger guys?
Ellerbe: Basically just staying focused. At the end of the day, it’s still football. The only thing that magnifies this game is the outside, the outside people and the crowd. At the end of the day, we’re doing the same thing. We’re playing a nameless faceless team. We’ve just got to go out there and play our game.
Roob: Is that a tough lesson for young guys to learn?
Ellerbe: For the young guys right now, I don’t think they’ll fully understand it until they get older. They’re just living in the moment right now. But we try to preach to them that this is not guaranteed. My first four years in Baltimore, we were in the playoffs and I got used to being in the playoffs, and after we won the Super Bowl, I haven’t been back to the playoffs since, so this is my first playoff game since the Super Bowl.
Roob: That was a crazy Super Bowl. What do you remember about that moment?
Ellerbe: They cut the lights off! Winning it, it was a feeling like no other. I just started running around on the field. My body just left me. I just broke down and prayed. It was great.