Eagles

Nick Foles plans to become a pastor after football

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Nick Foles plans to become a pastor after football

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Nick Foles has a calling far greater than throwing touchdown passes.

If Foles leads the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, he'll become a folk hero in a city that has desperately waited for a championship since 1960.

But that won't define Foles in the big picture. He has more important plans for his future.

"I want to be a pastor in a high school," Foles said Thursday. "It's on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It's a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people's hearts."

Foles is part of a team that has a strong Christian brotherhood. MVP contender Carson Wentz has been outspoken about his faith and many players spend a lot of time together in prayer, studying the Bible and sharing devotionals.

Foles was one of the study leaders during his first stint in Philadelphia and has become a go-to source for younger guys. Left guard Stefen Wisniewksi also plans to become a pastor after his career ends.

"Guys like Nick and Wis can spit out scripture all day and it's awesome to take in that knowledge," said special teams ace Kamu Grugier-Hill.

Foles is passionate about helping students find their way and plans to use his experiences to inspire and encourage them.

"When I speak to (students), that's such a time of young men and young women's lives that there's a lot of things that are thrown at them. So much temptation in this world, so much going on with social media and the internet that you want to talk to them and address it and share all the weaknesses I have because I've fallen many times," Foles said. "It's something I want to do. I can't play football forever. I've been blessed with an amazing platform and it's just a door God has opened, but I still have a lot of school left and a long journey."

Foles, who was offensive MVP of the Pro Bowl following the 2013 season, contemplated retirement after he asked the Rams to release him last year. He ended up going to Kansas City and reuniting with Andy Reid, who drafted him in the third round in Philadelphia in 2012.

He says prayer helped him decide to stay in the NFL, and he returned to the Eagles to be Wentz's backup. When Wentz tore his left ACL in Week 14, Wentz stepped in and led Philadelphia. He was spectacular against Minnesota in the NFC championship, tossing four touchdown passes in a 38-7 win.

Foles — not Tom Brady — has the highest passer rating in postseason history for quarterbacks who've thrown at least 75 passes. Foles has completed 72 of 96 passes for 793 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions in three games for a 116.4 passer rating.

"It took a lot more faith to come back and play than it would've to go in the other direction," Foles said. "Either way would've been fine. Either way, I would've trusted in God. I would've done something else and glorified God in that instance.

"The reason I decided to come back is I've loved the game of football since I was a kid, I loved playing sports, I loved being part of a team, and I knew as a person that the more growth I've had and the more opportunity I would have to glorify God and trust in him would be to go back and play football."

Brandon Graham stays ready in boxing ring, takes 'important step' for Eagles' 2018 opener

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USA Today Images

Brandon Graham stays ready in boxing ring, takes 'important step' for Eagles' 2018 opener

In February, Brandon Graham won a ring. In the six months since he’s gotten in one.

Graham said Monday he’s been doing some sparring as he rehabs from postseason ankle surgery.

Graham, who had a career-high 9½ sacks last year, returned to practice Monday after spending the last three weeks on the Eagles' physically unable to play reserve list (see story).

“Boxing is real good, especially with using my hands,” he said. “I always do that during the offseason. Always focus on my hands, because as a D-lineman that’s our goal, you’ve got to use your hands in everything.

“So while I’ve been hurt I’ve just been trying to work on my coordination and make sure everything stays tight.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Graham will be limited for a while here as he works off the rust.

"There are steps he's got to take along the way,” Schwartz said. “This is an important step getting back on to practice with his teammates. Probably be limited to just some individual stuff and we'll sort of work him along. But it is great to have him back.”

Graham won’t play against the Browns Thursday night and almost certainly won’t play against the Jets in the preseason finale a week later.

All he’s got on his mind is the Falcons on Sept. 6.

“All I can say is when I do start hitting people, I’m going to be so sore, but then you’ve got to work through that soreness like we always do and eventually that starts to become your armor and you build on that,” he said.

“I’m excited. Just excited to be back out there with the boys. It’s been hard standing back because you don’t want to feel behind. I don’t feel like I’m behind but they got a lot more reps than I got, so I’m just trying to catch up.

“Everybody knows when it’s time to go it’s going to be time to go. I’m just excited. We’re all excited because it’s the first step.”

Graham, who had the legendary strip-sack of Tom Brady in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl, said his ankle is fine, it’s just a matter of conditioning at this point.

Week 1?

“I’m not going to make any promises, but I’m working my butt off every day,” he said. “Putting money in the bank every day.”

Graham has missed only one game since opening day of 2012, and that was the meaningless season-ender last year against the Cowboys.

Only four defensive ends — Jerry Hughes, Cameron Jordan, Julius Peppers and Ndamukong Suh — have played more games (96, obviously) over the last five seasons.

“I’m really just focused on Week 1 right now and focus on today and how everything goes,” said Graham, now 30.

“I feel like I can get myself ready for Week 1, for sure, because I’m already doing two-a-days and sometimes two-a-days. It’s on me to make sure I continue to get my shape up and that’s just running and doing drills and pushing and pulling on people.

“I think as I continue to feel better, I’m going to continue to go harder. I’m just excited because now I can start counting down the days. I’ve got 17 days to get right.”

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Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is concerned enough about the NFL's new rule banning tacklers from lowering their head to initiate contact that he held a defensive meeting Monday specifically so his guys could study film of exactly how the league is calling the new rule.

Through two preseason weekends, the Eagles have been cited a league-high five times for personal fouls for lowering the head.

“The instructions we’ve given guys is, try not to lower your head and try to take your head out of it, and I think our guys are trying to do that,” Schwartz said.

“I can confidently say we don’t have any guys that are trying to play outside the bounds. We don’t have any guys that are head hunting, that are being selfish. They’re trying to play within the rules.

“I think you can see Nigel [Bradham’s] play, he’s trying to get his head out. I think even Rodney [McLeod’s] play, he’s trying to get his head across and get it out. The problem is they’re dealing with world-class athletes who are moving targets. A little bit easier said than done. 

“And those fouls have hurt us in those first couple preseason games and we’ve got to get to a point where they don’t hurt us in the regular season.”

Cornerback Sidney Jones was called for a lowering-the-head penalty on Steelers receiver Damoun Patterson in the preseason opener, and tight end Richard Rodgers was also cited in the opener for an illegal hit on Justin Thomas on a punt return.

Last Thursday night, McLeod was called for a hit on running back James White, Bradham was cited for a hit on receiver Julian Edelman and safety Jeremy Reaves was penalized for a hit on running back Mike Gillislee.

“It’s going to be very important work over the next couple weeks, not just learning from our own mistakes but learning from other teams,” Schwartz said.

“There’s some other good feedback. We get clips from the league that show not just penalties that were called but penalties that should have been called. So there is a learning process.”

Eagles veteran defensive end Brandon Graham said it’s going to be tough to eliminate these penalties simply because the game moves so fast, and even if your intention is to use perfect form tackling, it doesn’t always end up that way.

“It’s tough because sometimes the runner’s ducking his head just as much as you’re ducking,” he said. “But they just don’t want to see the crown of your head hitting his crown or hitting his facemask.

“Just really try to keep your eyes up. You’re going to get ran over sometimes. Hey, you’re going to get ran over. But some people do like to use the crown of their head and it’s just to protect them because you don’t want to be paralyzed from hitting someone the wrong way. 

"So I try to keep my face up and hit with my facemask and this will force people to start doing stuff like that.”

One challenge Schwartz noted is getting his guys to play hard, fast and aggressive without thinking about how they’re tackling.

“You want to play fast,” he said. “You want to play confidently on the field. But any time there’s something new, there is going to be an adjustment. 

“It’s a difficult thing. We're trying our best to work through it, but it does add a layer of difficulty to what we're trying to do.”

According to penalty stats on NFLgsis, an official league statistical web site, there have been 48 lowering-the-head penalties called in 32 preseason games or 1½ per game.

Eight of the 32 teams haven’t been cited at all. The Eagles and Titans have been called a league-high five times each.

“It’s real sensitive right now, but as professionals, we’re going to adjust,” Graham said.

“They want to make it an emphasis in preseason, and I’m happy it didn’t cost us a real game. We’ve just got to continue to keep our head out of things and I think we’ll make that adjustment."

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