How Malcolm Jenkins became Eagles' go-to leader

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How Malcolm Jenkins became Eagles' go-to leader

When Eagles backup defensive end Steven Means doesn't suit up for a game, he tries to stay out of the way during the celebration in the locker room. 

It's become customary that after head coach Doug Pederson addresses the team in the locker room following wins — in videos we've seen after the Eagles release them — veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins breaks down the huddle with some more inspirational words of his own. 

So Means will sometimes be on the outskirts of the circle with some of his other teammates, who all lean inward and physically turn up their ears just to hear what Jenkins, one of the most influential leaders on the team, has to say. 

"He speaks with a lot of passion and intensity," Means said. "And there's meaning behind his words. You want to be right there and you want to feed off of that intensity. You've already got a lot of emotions and energy in yourself already, but when you've got a guy like that, you feed off of that too."

Jenkins, 30, says he's really kind of talking to himself in those moments. 

He knows that shortly after he breaks the team down, reporters and TV cameras will flood into the locker room, so he tries to anticipate what's coming. He tries to be aware of the questions that will be about how great they are or how a teammate messed up or about "doubting yourself" or about being "super confident." The former Super Bowl winner said those are all things that need tempering. 

In those moments, he's reminding himself as the rest of his teammates listen intently. 

"Most of it is just kind of off of my heart," Jenkins said. "I kind of try to analyze the situation of where we are as a team, do a little bit of reflection but make sure that it's not just an emotional response to keep everybody in perspective. Just because it's easy to get too high or too low after a win or loss. It's easy to start to listen to all of the things that people are getting ready to say."

No one seems super sure of how this became Jenkins' role for good. He said the team would call on different guys each week last season, but this year Pederson called on him early in the season and they started winning. 

Jenkins admitted football players are often superstitious, so if him speaking to the team after wins got them a 13-3 record and into the NFC Championship Game, he's certainly not going to stop now. 

"I just think he's embraced it," Pederson said. "I think now the guys embrace it. I don't necessarily say, 'Malcolm, break the team down or talk to the team.' I think it's just him being Malcolm and being a leader of this football team, and being one of the guys that they look to for that leadership. He's embraced it and guys look forward to it, obviously. He's been good. He's got a lot of profound messages as you've seen. He speaks from the heart and he speaks truth. So that's been a positive."

Jenkins' message seems to change after each win. His speeches are always topical. 

After the win over the Falcons in the divisional round, he said they believe in everyone in the circle. He told his teammates if they didn't believe it yet, they should go home. He then stressed the importance of focusing on their process and their grind in the upcoming week before they "shock the world" next week. Watch it here.

After the win over the Raiders on Christmas Day, Jenkins wished his teammates a Merry Christmas and then reminded them that no one ever said it would be easy or pretty. "Just get it done," he said. Watch that here.

After the win Dec. 17 over the Giants, he stressed the importance of staying in the moment, especially as the end of the season neared. "Winning in this league, it ain't easy," he said. "You realize it ain't going to be no easier going forward." Watch it here.

But his most impassioned speech of the season came on the night after the Eagles won the division in Los Angeles but also lost Carson Wentz. The impassioned speech on Dec. 10 was longer than normal and profanity-laced. It was one of the most important moments of the season; the Eagles won the NFC East but lost the MVP of the league. 

"Carson being out of this s---, bruh, that s--- sucks," Jenkins pleaded from inside the cramped locker room at the L.A. Coliseum. "But dig this: We f------ set this up for whoever the f--- is in this room! This is who we're riding with, man!"

He then told his teammates to be proud of themselves and celebrate the division title. 

At the end of every speech, Jenkins brings in his teammates and breaks them down with the same refrain: "Family on three!" 

The whole time Jenkins speaks, his teammates listen. They're all hoping they'll get one more speech at the Linc on Sunday. 

"It's definitely all ears," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "Honestly, I think when anybody speaks on this team, it's kind of like that. It's respect. His is another level. What he's done in this league and what he's been able to accomplish off the field in the community, of course, we all listen."

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

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Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

Greg Ward threw more touchdown passes in college than Carson Wentz and had a higher career passer rating than Nick Foles. 

These days, his job is catching passes, not throwing them. 

It’s quite a transition from big-time NCAA Division 1 quarterback to NFL wide receiver, but at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, the former Houston Cougar knows where his future is.

Ward spent all of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, learning the nuances of a new position and figuring out how to think like a receiver instead of a quarterback. 

He looked surprisingly polished at wide out in training camp, caught nine passes for 63 yards in the preseason and then spent the season focusing on getting better.

“I still haven’t 100 percent gotten the position,” Ward said after a recent rookie camp practice. “I always feel like I can get better, always feel like I can learn something new, feel like there’ll always be something to improve on. 

“Last year was a big year for me. Just learning a new position, learning football period, learning from Alshon (Jeffery), Torrey (Smith) and Nelson (Agholor), it was a very important year for me.

“Just gathering every bit of information I could watching those guys practice and watching them in games and then learning how to apply what you’ve learned to your game.”

Ward never did get a chance to play, but he said he felt himself getting better as the year went along.

“Everybody wants to play,” said Ward, who led Houston to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State in Atlanta at the end of his junior year. 

“You’re a competitor, that’s why we all do this. But I was humbled and thankful just to be on a Super Bowl team. Just to be in the NFL period. Some guys aren’t able to play football at all. I’m just grateful to be on a football team. 

“But this is not the end of my story. I am going to get out there and I am going to play.”

Ward was with the Eagles during their postseason run and he was there in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.

He used every moment, every day, as an opportunity to improve. Even if nobody could see it happening.

“The biggest thing I learned was just being patient, just being humble,” he said. “Our team last year, there was nobody that was selfish. Nobody who thought they were bigger than anybody else. I learned patience and the importance of doing extra. Getting extra work, studying more, watching more film. That’s what it takes to win a championship.”

The Eagles have quite a crowd at wide receiver, with Jeffery, Agholor and Mack Hollins back, Wallace and Markus Wheaton in the fold and guys like Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson and Rashard Davis all also in the mix.

But Ward doesn’t concern himself with the numbers.

“The next step for me is to separate myself,” he said. "As a competitor, especially coming from being undrafted, you have to separate yourself. You have to be different. 

“You have to catch whoever’s eye it is, head coach, position coach, catch everybody’s eyes. They have to see value in you. That’s where I am right now. Trying to separate myself.”

How long will it take?

“I’m leaving that up to God,” he said. “I know I’m putting in the hard work and I know one day it will pay off. I know that day will come.”

Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

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Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi is strongly denying accusations made in a lawsuit that he trashed a Los Angeles house after the Super Bowl (see story)

The lawsuit, as reported by TMZ earlier this week, accuses Ajayi of throwing three parties at the L.A. mansion he was renting even after the owner told him not to. Ajayi is being charged $25,000 by the owner. 

Shortly after the story broke on Monday, a representative for Ajayi claimed the lawsuit was bogus. 

Now, we have an even stronger detail from Ajayi’s camp. 

Ajayi’s publicist Melanie Wadden told the Miami Herald that Ajayi didn’t throw any parties and caused no damage to the property. 

Additionally, Wadden denied the home owner’s claim that Ajayi pushed him in a menacing manner after confronting him.

“Jay was not involved in any physical altercations,” she said. 

Ajayi’s publicist also told the Herald that Ajayi was a guest and not the renter and the owner wanted the group to pay cash instead of through Airbnb. 

"The entire group voluntarily left the property several days early — no security or police were ever involved or on-site," Wadden said. "They filed a complaint against the owner through Airbnb back in February that included screenshots of the owner asking for cash and trying to communicate outside of their platform [against Airbnb policy]."

Ajayi, who came to the Eagles in the middle of last season in a trade, has one year left on his current contract.