Eagles

After a year without playing a game, Shelton Gibson ready for playoffs

After a year without playing a game, Shelton Gibson ready for playoffs

Shelton Gibson was literally sitting on his couch when the Eagles called this week. 

The same Eagles drafted him in the fifth round out of West Virginia in 2017. The same Eagles played him in 25 regular season and playoff games in his first two seasons. The same Eagles waived him in August. 

Gibson, 24, spent the entire 2019 season on the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad. He thought his entire third NFL season had come and gone without any game action. 

And now he’s going to suit up in Sunday’s playoff game at the Linc. 

“It’s super exciting,” Gibson said. “The whole year on the practice squad … I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s amazing.” 

While Gibson will offer depth at the receiver position, where the Eagles have been decimated by injuries and now have a rookie and three former practice squad members, his main role will be on special teams. During his time in Philly, he excelled as a gunner on the punt team. The Eagles used one of their open roster spots thank to injury to solidify the special teams unit. 

Gibson this week wasn’t much interesting in talking about his year in Cleveland. He just said it’s a blessing to be back and that he’s a different guy now than when he left and it has more to do with just the number chance from 18 to 83. 

“I take the game way, way, way more serious just because being on the practice squad the whole year, it’s a different perspective not playing on Sundays,” he said. “I haven’t played since the Saints last year, the playoff game. Gotta switch it. Gotta switch it from a practice squad mentality to a game mentality.”

During the first two years of his career, Gibson didn’t have much of an impact offensively. He has a total of three catches for 59 yards. Last season, he had a 48-yarder that was his only reception in 15 games. 

But Gibson was able to carve out a role on special teams. In 2018, he played 151 special teams snaps in the regular season (35 percent) and another 10 in the playoffs. 

Thanks to an ankle injury in the summer, Gibson didn’t play in the Eagles’ first preseason game and he was waived a few days later. He didn’t get to Cleveland until September. So the last game Gibson played was the divisional round loss to the Saints last year. 

It’s been nearly a full calendar year since Gibson has been in a football game. And how he’s heading back to the playoffs. 

“It’s a big blessing,” he said.

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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 why I took out a lot of stuff that he did and that’s what I’ll continue to keep doing.”

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