Andrew Luck

Jason Kelce is one Eagle in particular that can empathize with Andrew Luck

Jason Kelce is one Eagle in particular that can empathize with Andrew Luck

Jason Kelce understands exactly what Andrew Luck has been going through. 

He’s been going through a lot of it himself.

That endless cycle of injury / rehab / injury / rehab that Luck spoke of when he explained his retirement on Sunday is something Kelce’s been stuck in in most of his career.

Now, because he’s a center and not a quarterback, he’s been able to play through most of his injuries.

But they're there. They're there 24-7. 

And as he prepares for his ninth season, the 31-year-old Kelce can certainly sympathize with the Colts’ quarterback, who is only 29.

It sucks,” Kelce said. “It’s definitely part of the game. Pain in itself is a pretty depressing thing and having to deal with it contsantly, having to go through that, is something that’s not fun, and you’re always constantly weighing how much that’s bringing you down vs. all the other joys you get out of the game, and obviously Andrew made the decision that he’s kind of done with it. I think anybody who plays football at this level or in general can understand – especially once you’ve been playing a long time and once you’ve been through the ringer. You understand what guys are going through, and happy that he’s finally at peace with that (decision).

After playing last year with a broken foot, a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee and a torn elbow, Kelce considered walking away from the game before he ultimately decided to keep playing.

He said at this point -- after eight seasons, 110 games and too many injuries to keep track of -- he ponders retirement after every season.

Last year was a grind, for sure,” Kelce said. “It’s going to continue. There’s always pain in this league. This league has a 100 percent injury rate. I think you try to get used to it, and then as you play longer you have more and more things that just add up. … It sounds like (Luck) was enduring a lot and he was tired of it.

Kelce isn’t technically injured right now with two weeks before the Eagles’ opener. But he has chronic pain in his left knee that just isn’t going to go away.

So the challenge becomes managing the pain instead of eliminating it.  

I think my knee in particular has been bothering me for a couple years and it’s nothing that bothers me on game day, just once-in-a-while little nagging type things. As we’ve understood what causes that and as we’ve understood exercises and things to alleviate that it’s gotten better, so even though it might flare up more now as I’m getting older, I think we understand how to treat it and make it feel better so it’s not as nagging as it has been in the past.

Doug Pederson has managed Kelce’s practice time wisely this summer, giving him enough work to be prepared for the season but also giving him three load management days over the duration training camp for full recovery from the grind.

“I think (it’s great) for guys like me, guys like (Jason Peters), who have a lot of wear and tear on them," Kelce said. "Don’t get me wrong, there’s still an important aspect of getting physical reps and conditioning, it’s still very much important, but being physically at your best on game day is pretty important as well.”

Kelce is a two-time all-pro and a two-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl parade hero.

He could walk away now and be considered the greatest center in Eagles history. Hall of Famers Alex Wojciechowicz and Jim Ringo both played center for the Eagles but both were only here for four years at the end of their careers.

But Kelce said he’s as stoked for the 2019 season as he’s ever been. Two weeks before the opener, he's all in.

You always have the same fire, and I think even Andrew (Luck) still has the same fire, but that fire didn’t over-match the depressingness of the pain that he had to endure,” Kelce said. “I’m the same guy that I’ve always been. I love going out there and playing ball, I love playing with the guys next to me, I love coming to work every single day, so from that respect I’m very much looking forward to playing another year.

Kelce is an all-time Eagle. It’s fun having him around, and he’s still one of the best centers in the NFL.

With some smart work by the team’s doctors and trainers, he won’t be following Luck into retirement any time soon.

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Eagle Eye: The Andrew Luck news from an Eagles perspective

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Eagle Eye: The Andrew Luck news from an Eagles perspective

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro react to the shocking news of Andrew Luck’s retirement and find a tie-in with the Eagles. 

Could Nate Sudfeld be an option for the Colts? Rating other rumors we’ve heard involving the Eagles. 

And the Birds will face Case Keenum in Week 1. Is that a good thing?

• Andrew Luck surprised us all on Saturday night
• Would you trade Nate Sudfeld?  
• See you in Week 1, Case Keenum 
• Rating trade rumors associated with Eagles 
• Joran Mailata is playing a ton this preseason

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

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'He's found his peace:' An emotional Ertz reflects on Luck's retirement

'He's found his peace:' An emotional Ertz reflects on Luck's retirement

Back in 2010, Zach Ertz was a sophomore at Stanford and Andrew Luck was a hot-shot All-America quarterback as a junior.

They were very close. Still are. And Ertz remembers all the hype that was swirling around Luck.

And how he handled it.

We’d be in the locker room and there’d be stuff on the TVs about him all the time because of all the hype about whether he was going to win the Heisman or come out early, and he would literally go up to the TVs and turn them off,” Ertz said. “Because it was never about him. He just wanted it to be about the team. That’s just so Andrew. He was always team-oriented. He never really cared about himself as an individual or how he was viewed from the outside.

Ertz and Luck played together three years at Stanford and remain best friends.

Even so, Ertz was blind-sided when he was watching the Miami-Florida game Saturday night and saw on the crawl on the bottom of the screen that Luck was retiring.

He watched the 29-year-old Luck at a hastily called press conference talk about how years of injuries had sapped him of his love for the game and how he could no longer deal with the endless cycle of injuries and rehab.

Saw a very emotional Andrew,” Ertz said. “It was emotional watching it for me knowing him so personally and knowing how much he loves the game of football. … I’m proud of him, for sure. It’s not an easy decision to make, but this game is tough as it is, and it’s impossible to play if you’re 50 percent in and 50 percent out. It’s not good for yourself, it’s not good for your team. At the end of the day, I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. It feels like he’s at peace with this whole thing, and that’s all I care about.

If Luck is indeed finished, he goes down as the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history to retire before his 30th birthday.

He went 53-33 with 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions and made four Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Colts.

The injuries?

Colts writer Zak Keefer of the Athletic has the list:

Ertz knows what Luck has been going through and understands as well as anybody how difficult it’s been for him.

You want to be able to be at your best each and every day and there are times when your body just doesn’t allow it,” Ertz said. “It’s tough not only physically, but I think mentally the toll is even moreso, because mentally you feel so capable that you’re able to play at a high level and sometimes your body just doesn’t let you do that. There’s probably going to be more guys retiring early than later. It’s always better to leave a play too early than a play too late in this game because there’s so much risk that comes along with this sport.

Ertz spoke for quite a while before practice Sunday about Luck, who he first met on his recruiting trip to Palo Alto back in 2008.

This story sheds some serious insight into both of them:

In the offseason, 6 a.m. workouts would be tight ends and quarterbacks always competing against each other, and with me and Andrew off the field it was very relaxed and supportive, but in those situations we were extremely competitive with each other. There would be one drill where someone would let one person win and then there would be another drill where someone would let the other guy win, but with us, we would go at each others’ throats. At 6 a.m. We were so competitive with one another and I think it really helped both of us. And then Saturdays in the offseason, I’d get phone calls at 5 p.m., ‘Hey what are you doing? Let’s go run routes,’ and it would just be the two of us on the field at Stanford throwing. He was one of the best teammates I’ve ever been around and one of the best people I’ve ever been around.

Ertz said he texted Luck Saturday night and told him simply that he loves him.

“But you know how he is with technology,” he said with a laugh and said he’d call him once things settle down in another week.

The Eagles' record-setting tight end said his overwhelming emotion Sunday was actually happiness because he knows Luck made the best possible decision for himself.

I’m happy he’s found his clarity,” he said. “He could have played another 10 years if he really wanted to, if he was willing to go through everything again. ... But I’m more happy that he’s found peace in this decision, that he’s able to step away when he wants to on his own terms instead of on someone else’s terms. He played seven years and had an unbelievable career. One of the most talented players I’ve ever been around.

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