Dave Zangaro

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey dies after battle with coronavirus

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey dies after battle with coronavirus

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey died on Saturday of complications from the coronavirus. Dempsey was 73.

Dempsey contracted the coronavirus in March at the Lambeth House, a retirement home in New Orleans, and is one of at least 15 residents to die from the virus, according to The Times-Picayune.

Dempsey was an Eagle from 1971-1974, but also played for the Saints, Rams, Oilers and Bills.

Born without fingers on his right hand and toes on his right foot, Dempsey was known for his small flat kicking shoe. That shoe now resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“Tom's life spoke directly to the power of the human spirit and exemplified his resolute determination to not allow setbacks to impede following his dreams and aspirations,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “He exemplified the same fight and fortitude in recent years as he battled valiantly against illnesses but never wavered and kept his trademark sense of humor. He holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Saints family."

The year before he joined the Eagles, Dempsey gained fame by kicking a 63-yard field goal to give the Saints a last-second 19-17 win over the Lions at Tulane Stadium in 1970. It broke the previous NFL record for longest field goal by 7 yards.

That was the NFL record for 43 years until Matt Prater hit a 64-yarder in 2013. Others had tied the record but it took over four decades to beat it.

In his four seasons with the Eagles, for whom he played the longest, Dempsey kicked in 47 games and made 66 of 108 field goals (61.1%). He also made 84 of 90 point-after attempts. Dempsey is 18th on the Eagles’ list of all-time scorers with 282 points.

Dempsey retired to New Orleans where he began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent in 1969. He had been battling dementia since 2012. 

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Darius Slay explains why he’s wearing 24 to honor Kobe Bryant

Darius Slay explains why he’s wearing 24 to honor Kobe Bryant

You can still hear the giddiness in Darius Slay’s voice when he talks about Dec. 6, 2015. 

That was a special day for the Eagles’ new cornerback. 

That was the day he met the Kobe Bryant. 

The meeting between the late NBA superstar and the then-third-year NFL pro came after a Lakers-Pistons game at The Palace of Auburn Hills during the 2015 season. It’s a day and a moment Slay will never forget, getting the chance to meet his favorite basketball player and a personal idol. 

And now with the Eagles, Slay will honor Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, by wearing the No. 24 for the football team Bryant loved. 

“I was surprised that he even knew me,” Slay said. “I don’t know if the people told him, ‘You got Darius Slay out there waiting on you from the Detroit Lions’ or gave him a pre-talk about me or something. I don’t know. 

“But the fact that he came around the corner and (there) was like 20 to 30 reporters waiting on him, he kind of walked past all the reporters, everybody and came directly to me, like, ‘What’s up Slay? I love your game, man.’ He was talking about my style of play and we just chopped it up for a minute.”

Slay said he was so in shock that day he barely had any words to speak but he was able to hold a short conversation. Then Slay got Kobe’s autograph and they took a few photos together, including this one: 

Slay previously wore No. 23 in Detroit but that number is occupied by Rodney McLeod with the Eagles. And Jordan Howard, who wore 24 last year, left for Miami as a free agent. So things lined up perfectly for Slay to take the second of Kobe’s two retired numbers. 

When Bryant died in January, it became even more apparent how much he meant to his fellow athletes. When Bryant visited the Eagles in LA during the 2017 season, there was a similar giddiness with them. There’s a really good chance that Bryant was your favorite athlete’s favorite athlete. 

“I just love how much he competed,” Slay said. “He was a true competitor. He worked on his craft. I believe the work you put in is [what] you get out of it.” 

Slay said he also really admired that Bryant was always willing to seek out answers from others, most notably Michael Jordan. Even though Bryant was constantly being compared to Jordan, he was never hesitant to pick Jordan’s brain. 

Similarly, Slay said he loves talking to other cornerbacks and asking advice. He doesn’t care who that cornerback is; if he has a question about their technique or facing a particular receiver, he’s going to ask. 

“It’s just the part about doing anything and be willing to do anything to be good and be great,” Slay said. “That’s what I took out a lot of stuff that he did and that’s what I’ll continue to keep doing.”

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Rodney McLeod explains biggest lessons learned from Malcolm Jenkins

Rodney McLeod explains biggest lessons learned from Malcolm Jenkins

Four years ago, when Rodney McLeod became a free agent for the first time in his NFL career, one of the reasons he wanted to join the Eagles was for the chance to play next to Malcolm Jenkins. 

And for the last four years, he did. The two formed a safety tandem that played 49 regular season games and four playoff games, including Super Bowl LII, together. 

But now Jenkins is back in New Orleans with the Saints and the Eagles are preparing to play without him for the first time since 2013. Meanwhile, McLeod signed a two-year deal to return to Philly. 

On a conference call with reporters on Thursday, McLeod said he learned a lot from Jenkins over the past four seasons. 

What were some of those lessons? 

Just as a competitor,” McLeod said. “And then the ability to get the most out of guys, whether it’s on the defensive side or from an entire team standpoint. I think as a leader, that’s your kind of job. How can you get guys to play at the highest level and get the most out of your players. I think he was one of the best at doing that and understanding everyone … I learned a lot from him. 

“Not just on the field but off the field, the way he handled himself and what he did in the community for the city. I’ll always admire him. It’s hard to match. But like I said, his legacy will live on. The Saints are getting a good guy. Now, us as Eagles, playing with a new group of guys and we’re ready to move forward.

There’s no question that the Eagles are going to miss Jenkins’ contributions on the field. They will use some combination of Jalen Mills and Will Parks to replace him at that position and that won’t be easy. 

But the Eagles will also miss the leadership Jenkins brought to the locker room. He wasn’t just the leader of the secondary or even just the defense; Jenkins was oftentimes the key leader for the entire team. That’s hard to replace too. 

It’s not that McLeod, 29, hasn’t been a leader during his first four years in Philly. But now that role might need to expand and will become more important with the absence of Jenkins. 

“I think it’s important for me to be myself and be who I’ve always been,” McLeod said. “And that’s a guy that leads by his actions and leads by example. I think if you ask a lot of guys on the team, that’s what they’ll tell you most. Actions sometimes speak louder than words. I think there will be times for me to speak up when needed. When my teammates need me most, I’ll be ready to do that.”

For the most part, McLeod has been the quieter of the two safeties and Jim Schwartz has previously called him the calming presence in the defensive backfield.

But McLeod can speak up too. 

It’s really just about finding a balance between his two sides and putting the lessons from Jenkins into practice in 2020. 

“Myself, being a leader on this team for some time, will of course be asked to step up as well as other guys from a defensive standpoint and on the team,” McLeod said. “I think we’re prepared for that. And guys will be willing to step up to the plate and accept the challenge. Myself first and foremost.”

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