Rodney McLeod on Jason Peters, Malcolm Jenkins departures: 'Heartbreaking'

Rodney McLeod on Jason Peters, Malcolm Jenkins departures: 'Heartbreaking'

When it comes to leadership, Rodney McLeod certainly learned from the best.

McLeod played alongside Malcolm Jenkins for most of the last four years, and now that Jenkins is gone, certainly a good deal of the leadership in that Eagles’ secondary and on the defense overall is going to have to come from McLeod.

McLeod, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract to return to the Eagles in 2020, spoke about his leadership skills and moving forward without Jenkins in a conversation with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

“I think my leadership qualities have always been there for this team,” McLeod said. “Malcolm is a heck of a leader and I knew that from the first day that I entered in Philadelphia in 2016. How he quickly won over not just guys in the locker room, but myself included. He’s a guy that you want to follow. Everything about him, from the work that he does on the field, to the level he plays the game, to how he competes, to how he conducts himself as a professional and a student of the game really attracted me to him. I admire everything that he brought to the table. And off the field, it speaks for itself.”

How do you replace that?

McLeod’s leadership style has maybe always been a little overshadowed by Jenkins, who was as vocal as anybody. But if you’ve been around McLeod, you’ve seen that his is also a voice the younger – and older – players listen to.

Check out this video that NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro shot in 2018 while McLeod was out with a knee injury:

“I’ve always been that type of guy,” he said. “I speak up when needed. I think because I lead by example, when I do speak, people listen. It’s coming from a different place, so I grab a lot of people’s attention when I do decide to speak. … If you’re actions can’t show, then what do your words truly mean? I’m a guy that leads by action and let my words kind of follow suit. I’ll continue to do that. I know that the defense is going to need someone to also be a little more vocal at times. That’s what I’m going to have to do. Continue to play with energy, play with passion and, like I said, just let my heart pour out, man. I think if you do that, everything else will take care of itself and guys will rally behind you.”

If McLeod remains an Eagle through the two years on his contract – and he turns 30 this summer – he would be tied for the 6th-most seasons played by an Eagles safety in franchise history, behind only Dawk (13 seasons), Randy Logan (11), Wes Hopkins (9) and Quintin Mikell and Andre Waters (8 each).

“Man, it means everything to be an Eagle again, to sign a two-year contract to be back in green, a place that I love dearly and a place that loves me back,” he said. “I’m just excited to … push forward to bring this city another championship. I think that’s the reason we play this game. That’s something that will always be special in my heart, the fact that we were the first to do it but I think before I leave the game, I want to bring another one back to this city.”

With the departures of Peters, Jenkins, Nelson Agholor and Darren Sproles, McLeod is now tied for sixth on the Eagles in terms of senority.

When you’ve played so long with guys like Peters and Jenkins, it’s not easy to see them leave.

“It’s heartbreaking because you build a relationship with a lot of men that come through the doors and come through the locker room. And you look at guys like Jason Peters and Malcolm Jenkins that you mentioned that are staples and faces of this organization that have been around for a long time, that people know and love dearly. … Their legacy will live on forever. At the end of the day, it’s a part of the business. We all know that great teams and great players unfortunately aren’t able to play together forever. Whoever that 53-man roster is, come September, that’s who I’m going to ride out with and that’s who I’m going to lead. That’s my focus right now, being the best player, the best leader possible, that this organization and team needs. And bringing other guys along with me so that we can make this push to win games in September and push to win this division.”

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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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