stefen wisniewski

Eagles to ring bell at tonight's Sixers' game

USA Today Images

Eagles to ring bell at tonight's Sixers' game

There’s going to be Eagles mania at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Super Bowl champions will be in the building Tuesday evening for the Sixers game against the Wizards.

The Eagles' starting offensive line composed of Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, and the injured Jason Peters will ring the ceremonial pregame bell.

They won’t be the only ones in the arena. Other Eagles players and front office members also are expected to be there.

And judging by this quick Twitter poll last night, Sixers fans (loudly) will be showing their appreciation for the Eagles bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.

How Brandon Brooks started having fun again

USA Today Images

How Brandon Brooks started having fun again

As kickoff before the most important game of his life neared, Brandon Brooks realized something wasn't quite right. 

He hadn't vomited. 

The Eagles' right guard has moved past the anxiety issues that forced him to miss two games last season, but he hasn't dropped a ritual he picked up when he entered the league in 2012. Normally, every game morning, Brooks wakes up and vomits. Every once in about eight games, it doesn't happen, but this was the NFC Championship Game and shortly before the game started, nothing had happened yet. 

Finally, it did and then he was ready to go.

"As weird and as bad as that sounds, I felt cool, I felt good," Brooks said. "That's really what I needed, to be honest. When I threw up, it was like it was game day, just like any game day." 

It might not sound like the healthiest thing, to rely on throwing up before every game, but Brooks has come an incredibly far way since last year, when he realized his trouble with anxiety, owned it and took the steps to control it. 

This season, Brooks had his first Pro Bowl season, but perhaps more importantly, he didn't miss any of the Eagles' 16 regular season game or the two playoff games. He'll be starting in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4. 

"My mindset it so much further than it was last season as far as dealing with it," Brooks said. "You're going to have situations where you're going to feel it come on. And really how you handle it in that split second is going to tell you if you have a grasp on it or if you're just kind of holding it down for a little bit. There's been situations where I feel the anxiety come on but I know what it is, so I just don't let it affect me the way it did last year." 

Brooks, 28, admitted this week life would have been a lot easier if he had discovered how to identify and deal with his anxiety much earlier. Oh well, going through something has helped create his character. 

Because of the way he's handled his anxiety this season, Brooks is having fun playing football again. He no longer focuses on each mistake and obsesses about being perfect.

Adversity has a real way of putting things in perspective.  

"When you go through something real like that, man, the things you thought you were worried about, they don't matter," Brooks said. "For me, with the anxiety and the way I looked at it, after going through that and being around this group up front, I just realized there was no need for me to think of the game like that. There's far worse things that I can worry about and have anxiety about than this game. Going through that, it actually made me have a lot more fun playing. I'm not necessarily worried about making mistakes. Obviously, you want to go out there and do the best you can and you have a job to do. 

"You make mistakes, man, it is what it is. Life goes on. You don't want to make that, but it happens. I just have a lot more fun with the game, man. Probably individual, I'm probably a lot more confident and comfortable in my skin."

While Brooks' anxiety is the most dramatic example, he's not the only member of the Eagles' offensive line that had gone through some adversity. Really, all five guys who start for the Eagles have gone through something. 

Brooks had his anxiety. Halapoulivaati Vaitai had one of the worst debuts imaginable and had fans writing him off, but he's taken over for Jason Peters this year and has done a great job. Stefen Wisniewski came to Philadelphia as a backup and had to fight his way into the starting left guard job this year. Jason Kelce had the worst year of his career in 2017 and heard it plenty from fans; he's rebounded to have an All-Pro season. And Lane Johnson, although it was more self-inflicted, has served two suspensions totaling 14 games. 

All five have something to prove.  

"I think it helps your perspective on things," Wisniewski said. "I think when you just start and play well and nothing happens to you, you might take it for granted. I think when you go through some kind of adversity like we've all gone through, you start to appreciate it more. I think people who have a grateful attitude toward their situation are generally going to work harder and just have a better heart and ultimately are going to play better."

These 4 Eagles want another serving or two

AP Images

These 4 Eagles want another serving or two

It took Nigel Bradham six years in the NFL before he got a chance to play in his first playoff game. 

He's not taking any of this for granted. 

"It's funny, man, because you think, 'Damn, I've been playing in the league six years and this is my first appearance,'" Bradham said this week as the Eagles prepare for Sunday's NFC Championship Game. "You kind of be like, 'Dang, man, why'd it take so long?' It's more than just you, obviously. It's a team sport. I've been fortunate enough to be on a great team and to have the opportunity. 

"Right now, I'm 1-0 and I'm looking forward to having more success in the playoffs. It's definitely an amazing feeling."

Bradham isn't the only Eagles player in a similar situation. Stefen Wisniewski, in his seventh season, and Rodney McLeod and Alshon Jeffery, both in their sixth seasons, all played in their first playoff game last Saturday against the Falcons. 

The group, which had a combined 369 regular-season games without a playoff appearance, finally got a taste of the postseason. They're not ready for this ride to end. 

Because no one ever really knows how long it might take to get back. 

"The feeling was great," McLeod said. "To go out there, first playoff game, at home and come out with the win. Couldn't ask for a better story. 

"But now knowing that game is history and moving on to the Vikings, who are a great team and they've been like that all year. We're going to have to elevate our game even more than last week if we want to get to that next step. The road to the Super Bowl doesn't get easier."

All four definitely made their impact felt against the Falcons last Saturday. Bradham played well all game and came up huge on the final fourth down. McLeod was called for a personal foul, but it was a weak call and either way, it saved a touchdown. Jeffery caught four passes for 61 yards, including some that came in huge situations. And Wisniewski played his best game since joining the Eagles two years ago. 

Jeffery called the atmosphere at the Linc against the Falcons "electric" and expects the same type of level from fans this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. 

"I just try to stay in the moment, stay locked in," Jeffery said about his first playoff run. "I'm not trying to reflect on anything right now. I think I'll do that after the season, when the season is officially over with. Right now, I'm just trying to do a great job trying to stay locked in one day at a time." 

It's pretty clear it meant a lot to Jeffery to finally make it to the playoffs, but he's also very clearly not happy with just getting there. He's always a calm guy during the week, but it's obvious he's working to keep his emotions in check. 

"Of course, we all know we're one game away from the Super Bowl," Jeffery said, "but you just have to be relaxed and try to not go out there and think about that." 

Of course, these four players aren't the only first-timers the Eagles have in the playoffs. They have many more. It's just that these four had to wait the longest. 

In the week leading into the Falcons game, head coach Doug Pederson admitted he of course wondered how his first-timers would perform under the bright lights of the playoffs. Based on one win, he got a pretty quick answer. 

One thing is for sure: the four guys who had to all wait at least six seasons for their first taste of the playoffs will do almost anything to keep this going. 

"This is what we worked for," Bradham said. "When you go back to OTAs and all your training and doing everything in the offseason with the guys, 7-on-7 and things like that. This is what it's all for. You put all that work in, man, and you know what's on the line. We all are excited. We're just ready to go out here and play."