Brandon Brooks

Eagles practice far from its typical scene

Eagles practice far from its typical scene

It was anything but a normal day at the NovaCare Complex.

Upon entering the main gate Wednesday, extra security was everywhere to make sure each person was cleared to be on the grounds as more local and national media converged than we’ve seen since the day Michael Vick arrived.

You could tell the team spent plenty of time Tuesday at practice discussing how to handle the flood of journalists it was anticipating. When head coach Doug Pederson stepped to the podium to meet the masses, he made it immediately clear he was not here to discuss, in detail, why the team was disinvited to the White House (see story)

A few hours later when the locker room doors opened after practice, many players decided to disappear instead of facing questions. I can’t tell you the last time I saw so many players huddled in the trainer’s room or the player’s lounge. But the few who decided to face the music were the obvious ones like Malcolm Jenkins, who normally speaks so eloquently on social injustice and police brutality. However, he picked Wednesday to let his written words on cards express his opinions on the numerous questions and issues of why the team never met President Donald Trump (see story).

Zach Ertz stated he was disappointed but holds no ill will towards Fox News for the picture it inaccurately used of him kneeling (see story).

Brandon Brooks chose every word carefully when describing his views on the White House drama.

And to me, Jason Kelce, who has become quite the public speaker this year, gave the quote of the day when he said: “I didn’t win the Super Bowl to go to the White House."

The one team official I wanted to hear from was owner Jeff Lurie, who was not available to the media but made himself very visible walking around at practice.

And to think it was just days ago that we would go to Eagles practices to keep a close eye on Carson Wentz’s rehab and watch players develop. Now, whether they like it or not, the Eagles are at the center of a political firestorm. In due time, they’ll get back to just football. Players will be more than willing to talk again about trying to make the team and the chances of repeating as champions.

That day will come soon enough ... just not now.

Eagles see honor of White House visit, but players still undecided

Eagles see honor of White House visit, but players still undecided

The Eagles organization accepted an invitation to the White House to commemorate its Super Bowl LII championship on June 5. The question is how many of the flock will be migrating to the nation’s capital that day? 

The decision was a hot topic of discussion on Tuesday, Day 1 of voluntary OTAs. 

“I’m excited to be going to be honored as world champions. It’s a great honor,” Doug Pederson said. “We’re still working through some logistics right now, so we don’t have all the details today, but excited to be going.”

So the head coach will be attending. As for Carson Wentz, “I know for me, personally, if the team decides as a whole, most guys want to go or be a part of it, I’ll be attending with them,” he said. “I think it’s just a cool way to receive the honor nationally and be recognized. I don’t personally view it — I know some people do and everyone has their opinion on it — but I don’t view it as a political thing whatsoever. I don’t mess with politics very often.”

Wentz may not mess with politics, but Donald Trump’s short tenure in office is the definition of polarizing and it’s impossible for some of his teammates to be apolitical when it comes to visiting the White House. 

“Because of the political climate we’re in, it will be taken as a political statement one way or another, whether you want it to or not,” said Brandon Brooks, who has yet to decide if he will be making the trip. “The biggest thing is you have to separate politics from the experience of going to the White House. Me, personally, it really is a tough decision because the president we have now, I agree with some things and some I don’t, so I’ll be looking within myself.” 

Some players such as Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins are on record as saying they will not be going to the White House regardless of what the team as a whole decides. 

“For me, there’s a lot going on with that administration and I don’t think it’s the time to really have any kind of productive or constructive conversations about policy,” Jenkins said. “I definitely want to avoid being used as some kind of pawn. The way things have gone the last few months, I don’t think the time is right for that.”

Long and several other players made it very clear that whatever your choice, it will have no ill effect in the locker room. 

“As far as teammates, yeah, we all have a choice, so nobody’s judging anybody,” Long said. “It’s an honor to get to go to the White House and it means something different to everybody else.” 

Zach Ertz echoed Long’s sentiments about staying unified. 

“I’m still deciding. This isn’t going to be a divisive moment in the locker room,” Ertz said. “Guys are going to respect one another’s opinion. One of the things I’ve spoken about is my wife (U.S. women’s soccer player Julie Ertz) had gone in the past after they won the World Cup and she spoke about how fun it was to go there and to learn so much, see the history. So just an opportunity to go there whether you agree with the organization that’s in there or not. It’s the premiere building in this nation.”

Eagles' Brandon Brooks uses own story to inspire graduates

brooks-miami.jpg
Miami University

Eagles' Brandon Brooks uses own story to inspire graduates

Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks was back at his alma mater this weekend, delivering the commencement speech at Miami University (Ohio), when he began talking about his battle with anxiety. 

In front of thousands of people. 

“Truth be told, I’m feeing a little anxious today,” Brooks said, inciting laughter in front of the giant crowd staring back at him. “But I’ve learned through therapy, to not worry or care about making a mistake. Why? Because the best thing about life is that it goes on.”

Brooks, 28, talked to the crowd of graduates about love and honor, perseverance and unity, but perhaps it was telling his personal story about how he overcame his anxiety that made the most lasting impression. 

After identifying his issues with anxiety during the 2016 season, when he missed two games, Brooks began to seek help. In 2017, he played in all 16 games, became a Pro Bowler and helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship. 

As the Eagles were getting ready to play in the Super Bowl, Brooks reflected a little bit on his road thus far and chronicled how he was able to have fun playing football again (see story)

On Saturday, he told the graduates that even after becoming a Pro Bowler and winning the Super Bowl, he’s “especially proud” of overcoming his anxiety. 

For those in attendance who didn’t know his story, he gave them an overview: 

“I took being the best very seriously. Too seriously, in fact,” Brooks said. “I demanded excellence of myself. I demanded perfection. No mistakes, no screwups. I wanted to epitomize perfection. I did not want to make mistakes. And when that did happen, the world wasn’t a good place for me. I had a secret; I needed help. I grew up thinking, you had to man up. You had to suck it up, as they say. Boy, did I learn the hard way. 

“I don’t know how many of you know, but I have an anxiety disorder. I demanded perfection of myself and when I fail, when I’m not that superhuman I’m supposed to be, my body and my mind turn on me. I get tremendously ill for hours and can’t play the sport I love. I missed five NFL games over my career because I couldn’t handle being perfect. I came to a crossroads where I had to make a decision. I would either cave under the pressure or get help, persevere and rise to the occasion. I choose the latter because there are no diamonds without pressure. 

“Getting help by seeing a therapist was one of the best things for me. For those out there going through something you can’t handle yourself, never be afraid to ask for help and get the help you need.”

Brooks is one of three Eagles to make graduation speeches this spring after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Corey Clement was at Rowan University in his hometown of Glassboro, N.J., and Chris Long spoke at the University of Virginia. 

Brooks explained how important the law of averages has been to helping him overcome his anxiety and tried to pass along that knowledge. For a player who is an 8 out of 10, there will be days they’re 10/10, but also days where they’re 6/10. 

For Brooks, it’s all about striving to be perfect without letting life’s inevitable failures take over. 

That’s a lesson worth teaching. 

“We are all allowed to make mistakes, to be imperfect, to be human,” Brooks said. “Learn that now, listen to someone who knows. Learn from your mistakes, keep pushing, trust yourself and trust the process.”