Eagles TE Brent Celek still hungry for title with time running out on career

Eagles TE Brent Celek still hungry for title with time running out on career

Brent Celek is under no illusions about where he is at this stage of his NFL career. Heading into his 11th year with the Eagles at age 32, any season could be Celek’s last.

“You try not think about that type of stuff,” Celek said Monday at the NovaCare Complex. “All I’m focused on is today, and then when I wake up again tomorrow, just focus on that day. At the end, it will reveal itself.”

Celek continued to take a back seat in the Eagles’ offense last season, his least productive as a pro with 14 receptions for 155 yards and no touchdowns. Zach Ertz has clearly taken over as the starting tight end, while Trey Burton was on the field for only about 10 percent fewer snaps than Celek.

Yet despite his dwindling role in the offense and declining ability, Celek is still savoring every day he has left in the league – and still chasing a ring.

“You never know when it’s your time,” Celek said. “You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get and try to seize the moment.”

Celek wants to continue playing football. He also wants to win a Super Bowl. Most of all, Celek really wants to do both of those things as a member of the Eagles.

There is no questioning where loyalties are for the tight end. Celek reportedly accepted a pay cut during the offseason, and while it’s unclear whether the Eagles would have moved on if he hadn’t, as always, he was willing to do what it took to help the club.

After a decade with the Eagles – a period in which he’s missed just one game – Celek is second only to long snapper Jon Dorenbos for the most tenured player on the roster.

“I don’t take that for granted,” Celek said. “I love this place, I love this city, and I want to be here for a long time.”

The question for the Eagles is how much longer will Celek remain a viable option?

Celek has been deployed as a blocking tight end with increasing frequency since 2013, but looked more lumbering than ever as a receiver in the passing attack last season while battling a rib injury. Meanwhile, his efficiency as a blocker has dropped off a bit in recent years as well.

Declining performance is to be expected at his age, and even Celek admits it isn’t as easy staying in playing shape as it once was.

“The older you get, it definitely gets a little bit tougher,” Celek said. “I mean, you guys probably know. … It’s a little bit harder, but it’s good. It’s been good for me, just have to work a little bit more.”

Celek’s pursuit of a championship is a big part of what motivates him to continue. Unfortunately, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record in 2016, missing the playoffs for the third season in a row. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, Celek’s second year in the league.

The Eagles aren’t exactly considered favorites to reach the Super Bowl this season, either, although Celek is keeping an open mind.

“There’s 32 good teams in the NFL,” Celek said. “Listen, you have to be great when it comes to playoff time. Our first focus is getting to the playoffs, but then you have to play well. We just have to be better than we have in years past.”

Celek also expressed optimism in the development of Carson Wentz and the rapport the quarterback is building with members of the offense entering his second NFL season.

“The more you work with somebody, you just get better together,” Celek said. “It’s him getting used to all the receivers, even some of the new guys and just becoming more comfortable with our offense.

“Carson, he picked it up pretty fast last year, but I think things are just going to continue getting better and better as time goes on.”

Time is luxury Celek may not have. He’s signed through 2018, and sounds very much on board with the Eagles for long haul, but even Celek acknowledges his career is nearing its end.

Celek isn’t going to quit. The Eagles can count on that. Whether he has enough left in the tank to see a rebuild through and help the team compete for a championship remains to be seen.

Darren Sproles plans to retire after 2018 season

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Darren Sproles plans to retire after 2018 season

The 2018 season will be the final one for Darren Sproles.

The Eagles' running back announced in a blog post Sunday that he plans to play just "one more year." In fact, Sproles wrote that he had originally planned for 2017 to be his final season in the NFL, but that changed after suffering a season-ending torn ACL and broken arm against the Giants in Week 3. 

"An injury is different; It’s something you don’t have any control over but I feel like I left a lot out there, and I couldn’t let my career end like that," Sproles wrote.

"Coming back from any injury is tough—especially a knee injury for a running back. I wondered if I was going to come back the same, if I would still have my quickness. That’s the main thing because I don’t want to go out there and start getting smacked. Once I started rehabbing and running again I could tell I was good and ready for one more healthy year."

The 35-year-old agreed to terms on a one-year deal to return to the Eagles back in April. This coming season, he will be part of a crowded Eagles backfield that's headlined by Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.

Over four seasons with the Birds, Sproles has compiled 2,420 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. He's also been a weapon on special teams, posting a 12.5 yards per return average and four touchdowns. Acquired in a trade from the Saints in 2014, Sproles has made the Pro Bowl three times as an Eagle and was named to Second Team All-Pro as a returner in his first season in Philly.

"I’m excited to come back and I am even more excited to come back to the defending Super Bowl champion, Eagles," Sproles wrote. "We have something special here with the team, the fans, and the city. We made history bringing the first Lombardi trophy to Philly and now we want to go back-to-back."

In the post, Sproles noted that he has his sights set on getting into the top five of the all-time leaders in all-purpose yards. Sproles currently sits eighth all-time with 19,155 yards. He should pass Steve Smith (19,180) and Marshall Faulk (19,190) with ease, but will have to leap Tim Brown (19,682) to get into the top five. The 13-year veteran wrote that it "will probably take until about mid-season (maybe a little longer)" to catch Brown.

The other players in the top five? Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton and Emmit Smith. Pretty good company.

Though, records weren't the thing that ultimately convinced Sproles to push his retirement back one more season.

"But I don’t do it for the records," Sproles wrote. "Yeah, it would be an honor to be mentioned in the same conversation as those guys—but that’s not what’s important. I love this game. I love what I do. When my daughter Devyn looked me in the eye and told me I have to play one more year—well, that was it."

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Eagles Mailbag: Trading Nick Foles; will Carson Wentz be ready?

Eagles Mailbag: Trading Nick Foles; will Carson Wentz be ready?

Training camp starts next week!

After a shorter-than-usual offseason, the Eagles will try to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champs in over a decade. 

We answered half of your questions yesterday (see story). The rest today: 

To me, this has always been the most likely scenario if Nick Foles were to ever get traded for a few reasons. The first is that by training camp, the Eagles will have a much better idea of whether or not Carson Wentz is ready to play. They can decide to either keep the insurance policy or trade it away. And you’re right, desperation will raise Foles’ price. 

I remember asking Howie Roseman about this exact possibility back in March. 

“I’d say that’s a possibility of anyone on our team,” Roseman said. “We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the Eagles. I don’t want to make this about just Nick, but anything that can make us better at any time in the year, we have to look at.”

I think it would have to be a first-rounder. The Eagles already didn’t trade Foles for an early second-rounder this year and if Sam Bradford was worth a first-rounder, the Super Bowl MVP damn-well better be. Now, it’s rare to have a Teddy Bridgewater-type situation arise, but if it does, the Eagles will be waiting by their phones.  

(And side note: I don’t think Foles’ restructured contract changes anything.) 

My gut is that he’s ready for Week 1, but I don’t know. On one hand, it’s a really serious injury. On the other, I was incredibly impressed by how much he was able to do in the spring and how well he did it. 

The one thing I know is this: It won’t be a decision. Either Wentz is cleared and he plays or he isn’t cleared and he doesn’t. There can’t be any thought to resting him if he’s cleared to play. These games are too important and they’re going to need him in every one. 

The Rams improved their roster and should be one of the favorites to win the NFC. The Rams already had a quarterback and some key pieces around him and then they won the offseason. 

The brought in Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Now, putting a bunch of great players together isn’t enough — remember the Dream Team — but it’s a good start. And the Rams certainly added a lot of talent. 

This is a fair question after Nigel Bradham’s suspension, but the good news for the Eagles is that Bradham’s suspension is just one game. The Eagles should have had more depth but Paul Worrilow went down for the season in the spring on the same day they cut Mychal Kendricks. That leaves the Eagles with a depth problem. 

I think they’ll try to get a better sense of what depth they have during the first week or two of training camp. Let’s see what they have in Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson, Joe Walker and LaRoy Reynolds. But I’d imagine the Eagles at least have a couple veteran names in mind. Remember, they did add Dannell Ellerbe late last season and I wouldn’t be surprised if they still have a short list of guys who would make sense. 

Hot dogs. Please don’t ask me if they’re a sandwich. 

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