Corey Graham almost kept a straight face.
Still on the practice field at Lincoln Financial Field just a couple hours after the Eagles announced they had signed the 33-year-old safety to come back to the team for the 2018 season, Graham was asked about missing the first eight grueling days of training camp.
How upset was he to miss those intense practices in the heat and humidity of summer?
“It was tough, man,” Graham said through a sly grin. “It was tough not being here for training camp. I came as soon as I could, man. I was just hoping they’d sign me eventually, so I came as soon as I could.”
His teammates weren’t buying it.
“He pulled a nice little vet move,” said Malcolm Jenkins, who added he’ll maybe take a page out of Graham’s book when he gets to his 12th or 13th season.
For the second straight year, Graham missed all of OTAs and the beginning part of training camp before signing in August. He signed even later this year than last. As expected, his teammates have already been giving him some grief for missing the first couple weeks of camp.
“He’s been doing it for 10-plus years, man, so he’s got that privilege to miss a week or two,” Jalen Mills said. “But he’s going to get back in the swing of things.”
While it all seemed planned, Graham said he was really struggling with the decision. The way he saw it, he had two options: Either hang up the cleats or go back to the Eagles.
Throughout the last few months, he’s been in touch with the Eagles and they knew it was one or the other. While a lot of people expected him to return, Graham really contemplated going out as a Super Bowl champ.
“It was close. It was closer than people think,” he said. “Everybody was like, ‘We were waiting on you to come back.’ They just assumed I was going to come back. Being home with your family, being with my boys, they wanted me there. I enjoyed it. When it all came down to it, it was just another opportunity to try to win again and be around the guys.”
Graham was a big and sometimes underappreciated part of the 2017 Super Bowl team. He played 36 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season, but the team leaned on him even more in the playoffs, when he played 60 percent, including 64 of 76 in Super Bowl LII. He was also a big-time contributor on special teams.
In his absence so far this summer, younger players like Tre Sullivan and Jeremy Reaves have been getting extended reps. So in that way, Jenkins actually thinks it was a good thing Graham hasn’t been around. He doesn’t need a ton of work and now those younger guys have ostensibly improved.
Graham said he missed being around his teammates, which played a role in his decision to return. He also liked the idea of competing to win another Super Bowl.
This is it, though.
“I’m assuming it’s the last year,” Graham said. “If I say anything other than that, my wife might kill me. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, yeah, it’s my last year.”
If it isn’t, we’ll probably be doing this again next August. No need for training camp.