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.