Eagles

Why Carson Wentz says he's 'not an idiot' about NFL's COVID-19 season

Why Carson Wentz says he's 'not an idiot' about NFL's COVID-19 season

Carson Wentz held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to discuss the upcoming Eagles season, the revamped offense, new teammates and his growing role as a leader. 

Doesn't that all just sound so normal? 

The problem is that Wentz's press conference on Thursday was anything but normal. Nothing is normal anymore, despite how we yearn for it. 

This press conference was held via Zoom and sprinkled in with those questions about a football season that may or may not happen, at least not on schedule, were other questions about a global pandemic and just how the heck the NFL is going to play through it.

I like to look at it as the glass half full," Wentz said on Thursday afternoon. "I'm optimistic that we can execute all the protocols, guys can stay safe, guys can stay healthy. 

"But I'm also not an idiot. You just don't fully know how everything is going to unfold. So until something changes, I'm going to be here, I'm going to be working, I'm going to be ready to go just like all my teammates.

In the last few days, Eagles right guard Lane Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus and was put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list along with Nathan Gerry and Jordan Mailata. That news came after we learned that wide receiver Marquise Goodwin decided to opt out of the 2020 season. 

And the Eagles haven't even been hit as hard as some other teams. 

On Thursday, Wentz was asked if he gave any thought to opting out himself. 

Wentz is in a very different spot in his life than he was just a few years ago. He came into the league as a single 23-year-old. Now, he's 27, married and has a 3-month-old daughter at home to worry about. 

"I feel safe here," Wentz said. "You never know how this is going to fully unfold but I feel safe here. It was something that my wife and I talked about, prayed a lot about and we feel good with our decision. 

"But at the same time, completely respect the guys that did decide to opt out for personal reasons, family reasons, health reasons, like Marquise Goodwin. I talked to him the other day. Fully respect this decision. Obviously, I'm bummed that I'm not going to be able to play with him. But fully respect those guys' decisions that do (opt out) for a number of reasons."

Unlike the NBA, the NFL is attempting to have a season without a bubble scenario, which creates natural complications. The Eagles will be in a somewhat controlled environment inside the NovaCare Complex, where the Eagles have made significant alterations to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

But guys go home. 

And once guys go home, the entire team — and the league, really — is on a trust-based system. NFL players will be relying on their teammates and their opponents to minimize risks, to not go to busy bars and nightclubs, to not put themselves in other high-risk situations. 

Even then, there's still no way to truly prevent the spread of the virus that's foolproof. 

"We're going to do everything we can as a team, especially as leaders, to make sure guys are handling their business, not just in the building but outside the building," Wentz said. "Who they're around, what they're going to do. It is going to look different and it is going to be a challenge, but I think we in Philly are up for it. Hopefully everyone around the league is up for it as well."

Spoken like a true optimist, who also happens to be no idiot.

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Eagles draft pick Casey Toohill didn’t let a pandemic slow him down

Eagles draft pick Casey Toohill didn’t let a pandemic slow him down

As far as built-in excuses go, this would have been a pretty good one. 

After all, it’s not Casey Toohill’s fault there’s a global pandemic. It’s not his fault gyms were closed and OTAs were canceled. And it’s not even his fault that he’s an undersized 7th-round pick entering a season where all rookies are at an extreme disadvantage. He won’t even have preseason games. 

But you can save the excuses. Toohill did. He refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic stand in his way. 

I knew I needed to gain weight, so that’s what I did,” Toohilll said last week. “I bought a squat rack, I borrowed weights. Eventually, I was able to find a place to work out with maybe a little bit more equipment. But from the first day on, I came home to San Diego, where I’m from, and I knew that was going to happen. I had that foresight, I purchased that equipment and then I hit it hard.

Toohill, 23, is listed at 250 pounds but he is already up to 255. He’s not done yet, but he’s off to a good start. 

This is an offseason where we got to learn a lot about the desire of football players at various levels. The self-motivators found a way. Even in inopportune situations, those guys were able to lift and workout and train and prepare for camp. Then there are guys who might not be self-motivated. 

There’s no question what category Toohill falls into. 

“A lot of guys need that structure and organization,” Stanford director of defense Lance Anderson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last week. “If anyone can do it on their own, it would be a guy like Casey. He’s going to take the initiative to get in and do what he needs to.”

A self-starter 

Anderson said it didn’t surprise him — “not a bit” — to hear that Toohill put in extra work this offseason despite the conditions. And he thinks if anyone can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to make an NFL roster under these conditions, it’s Toohill.  

Anderson saw those qualities from Toohill even as they were recruiting him as a high school player. But he really saw those qualities up close and personal during 2015, Toohill’s redshirt freshman season. 

Stanford’s strength and conditioning coach had been watching Toohill work out with two players a year ahead of him that the coaching staff had high hopes for — and Toohill was outworking both of them. 

“This is a guy that you need to keep an eye on,” Anderson remembers the coach telling him. “Don’t worry about those other two. Keep your eye on this guy just because of what he’s shown already.”

Gaining weight  

Toohill is now at 255 pounds and he doesn’t have a definite target in mind. His main goal is to increase his weight slowly without losing the athleticism that caught the eyes of NFL scouts and coaches. 

“I’ve gained weight and I want to continue to,” he said. “But I think it would be a mistake to rush to gain a lot of weight and then maybe feel like I’m slow or not as explosive.”

At 6-foot-5, now 255 pounds, Toohill is still undersized for an NFL defensive end, but that’s where the Eagles want to play him. He’s actually already heavier than the listed weights of Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller. 

If Toohill can improve his strength, he has a ton of other attributes to work with. Check out his athleticism numbers compared to other edge players: 

“Casey, naturally, he is an athletic kid,” Anderson said. “He can run, he can jump, he’s explosive. It’s just finding that right balance of gaining that weight and getting bigger, stronger but doing it the right way and doing it slow enough where it’s not bad weight and you start to lose that speed that makes you a good football player. That’s why you were drafted; that’s why you have an opportunity in the NFL. 

“It’s just that balance of doing it the right way. But it’s getting bigger and stronger to be able to hold up against those tackles and tight ends and fullbacks in the NFL.” 

Role in the NFL 

Anderson said Toohill garnered interest as both a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end during the pre-draft process. Some teams even inquired about him possibly playing as an off-the-ball inside linebacker or even an H-back or fullback. Teams were intrigued by his athleticism. 

But with the Eagles, Toohill is in the defensive line room, learning how to play defensive end. At Stanford, Toohill was an outside linebacker, but the outside ‘backers in that defense become like ends in a four-man rush in their nickel package, so he has some experience. 

“Now, he’s just gotta get used to doing it every single down, where you gotta be able to line up and knock a guy back and set a great edge, be able to stuff the run,” Anderson said. 

Anderson made sure to point out that Toohill’s size and athleticism should make him a good special teams player. That’ll be important, especially early in his career. If Toohill has a shot to make the roster — the odds are stacked against him — it’ll be because he flashes on special teams and shows his value there too. 

“What I’d love to see from Casey, because he does have so much athleticism and potential, and I think he has that work ethic, that drive, that desire to do it,” Anderson said. “What I’d love to see from him is just embrace that work ethic, get bigger, get stronger and be able to have a nice, long career playing at defensive end.” 

It won’t be easy, especially not starting out like this. But don’t expect to hear any excuses, especially not from Toohill. 

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After grieving loss of his brother, Vinny Curry back with his second family

After grieving loss of his brother, Vinny Curry back with his second family

If Vinny Curry decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season, absolutely no one would have blamed him. 

As the league prepares to hold a season during a pandemic, Curry unfortunately knows better than most about the dangers of COVID-19. He helplessly watched as the virus took one of his closest family members earlier this year. 

Dr. Gerald Glisson died from the coronavirus on May 3. He was 46. 

And Curry was left grieving for his half brother, friend and idol. 

Football? Football was the last thing on his mind. 

“The passing of my brother has been really, really hard on me,” Curry said Thursday on a Zoom call with reporters. “I just thought I would take my time with it. I didn’t even think about the game honestly. But I started to get the itch. So that’s what brought me back.”

But in May, June and July, Curry just wasn’t ready to get back to football. The 32-year-old needed to grieve; he needed to be with his family. 

On Thursday, Curry got emotional as he talked about his appreciation for his teammates, who constantly checked in on him during the rough time in his life. He also thanked all the teams who showed interest in him for understanding the situation and letting him take his time. 

“It’s crazy, man,” Curry said. “It happened so fast. It’s like, ‘wait, what?’ So when that happened, free agency just started and I’m just sitting there stuck like a deer in the headlights.” 

Glisson was a principal at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, he was a teacher, an athletic director and a football coach. According to NJ.com, he held two master’s degrees and recently earned his doctorate. It’s clear how much Glisson meant to his family and the community; the field house at Bauerle Field in Paterson is being renamed for him. 

A large man, at 6-5, 300, Glisson was weakened by the coronavirus. Curry said his brother couldn’t even walk to the bathroom after contracting it. The virus snuck up, took Glisson and left his family devastated in its wake. 

 

Curry was especially devastated. Even though Glisson was 14 years his senior, they were extremely close. And when Curry began to make his athletic rise, it was Glisson’s legacy he was chasing. 

The Eagles drafted Curry back in 2012 and he has spent seven of his eight seasons playing for the team he rooted for as a child. Curry left the Eagles for Tampa Bay after the 2017 season, but lasted just one year and has since said that it never felt right there. He thinks he never should have left. 

Philadelphia is Curry’s home and the Eagles are his second family. So at a time when his heart was heavy, of course he returned. 

Curry signed a one-year contract to rejoin the Eagles on Aug. 10, just over three months after his half brother died. 

While Curry said the dangers of COVID-19 “absolutely” gave him pause about playing in the 2020 season, he heard about how safe NFL facilities were and has been thoroughly impressed since reporting for training camp, calling the NovaCare Complex’s safety precautions “phenomenal.” 

This will be Curry’s ninth NFL season and he figures to play a big role as a rotational defensive end just like he did last season. Even though the Eagles seemed to need pass rush depth, they didn’t sign someone else. They knew Curry needed time and they waited to sign him. 

“When you’re grieving like that and you talk to somebody every single day and that happens the way it happens, you ain’t thinking about nothing else but the family,” Curry said.  

“But then once teams got into training camps, I’m pretty sure you guys have heard about how safe the facility are. My thing was, it was just time to get back out there. I felt like, you know what, I’m gonna go and do it.” 

Curry will be thinking of Glisson every step of the way. 

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