Eagles

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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Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

In a bit of a surprising move, the Eagles have decided to keep their coaching staff sequestered at home, despite an NFL policy that would allow them to return to work at the NovaCare Complex on Friday.

The NFL is allowing coaches — but not players — to work at team facilities starting Friday, as long as local and state guidelines allow it.

But Doug Pederson is apparently so happy with the way virtual sessions between the coaches and players have gone over the past several weeks that he doesn't see a reason to bring his coaches into the building yet.

"The virtual collaboration over the past three months has proven that the contributions and value of our employees is not dependent upon their physical presence at the facility," the team said in a statement.

Many Eagles assistants don't live in Philadelphia year-round and the new coaches on Pederson's staff haven't had the chance to look for homes yet.

Because players aren't allowed into the complex — other than injured or rehabbing players — it wouldn't really change the way the Eagles are holding virtual OTA sessions.

The current set of offseason workouts is scheduled to end on June 25, and training camp is scheduled to begin about a month later.

The Eagles will be opening the NovaCare Complex and the Linc to a limited number of employees next week.  

"Over the last 12 weeks, our organization has remained connected, united and focused on our preparations for the upcoming season," the Eagles said in an unattributed statement. 

"We have been planning for and will begin a phased approach of gradually returning a limited number of employees to the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field beginning Monday in compliance with the state and local guidelines, NFL policies and in consultation with medical experts."

The Eagles closed the NovaCare Complex on March 13 and players and coaches have been meeting virtually since. 

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Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

As we watch Drew Brees backpedal, apologize and now try to smooth things over with his teammates and his city, one thing is becoming clear. 

Carson Wentz nailed it. The first time. 

Wentz last Friday became one of the first high-profile white athletes in America to speak out about the killing of George Floyd. He stopped short of specifically calling out police brutality but he condemned “institutional racism” and his approach was one of understanding and empathy. It was honest, it was refreshing and it was unifying. 

Then there’s what Brees said. 

Brees in an interview on Wednesday reiterated his response from 2016 about the peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice once held by NFL players during the national anthem. Brees said he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” 

For Brees’s black teammates who have been fighting for racial equality, and for those affected by racial injustice, those words hurt. Not just because Brees completely missed the point of those protests but because of his complete lack of awareness. It hurt more because it came from someone they thought was an ally. 

Malcolm Jenkins on Thursday said he had spoken to Brees but he still posted his emotional responses to those comments. A strained Jenkins choked back tears as he talked about how much the words from Brees pained him. 

One of the big problems for Jenkins was the loss of trust. In an emotionally charged week, during which Jenkins has been trying to effect real change, someone he considered to be an ally, a friend, a brother, completely discounted the cause. 

To Brees’s credit, he did apologize on Thursday morning. While many will argue that his apology fell short in many areas, it’s at least a start to his rebuilding trust in the locker room and in New Orleans, where crowds of protesters on Wednesday chanted “F— Drew Brees!” Some will accept his apology, some will want to see more and some never will. 

For his sake and for the sake of his teammates, I hope the apology wasn’t hollow. I hope Brees learns why his words hurt so many. 

It’s hard to imagine Brees watching those videos of Jenkins and not wanting to rectify the situation. Imagine causing so much pain to someone you’re supposed to care about. 

While plenty of Saints players have spoken out against their quarterback’s words this week, many Eagles players have gained even more respect for their quarterback. DeSean Jackson earlier this week said his white teammates like Wentz, Zach Ertz and Jason Kelce stepped up. In that moment, Wentz wasn’t just a leader of a football team; he was a leader of the community. 

This isn’t about football right now. But eventually, there will be NFL games and it’s fair to wonder how these parallel situations will play out short-term and long-term in their respective cities. One team seems to be weaker because of this and one team seems to be stronger. 

While Brees caused what might be irreparable damage to the brotherhood of his football team and to his legacy in New Orleans, Wentz took a huge step forward as a leader of his locker room and the community. 

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