ANAHEIM, Calif. — For Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive end Chris Long, their game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday represents a sort of homecoming. For the rest of the team, Angel Stadium represents a pretty good facsimile of the trappings of home.
The Eagles held their first practice at the Big A on Wednesday (see story), preparing for the showdown against a fellow NFC division leader, and were surprised how similar it was to their NovaCare complex back in Philadelphia.
“They did a great job of throwing this thing together. This is unorthodox, but it’s worked out pretty well,” Long said.
“We just made it into the NovaCare the best way we can,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “That’s what makes it even more interesting, just by bringing what we have and making it like a home.”
It did take some time to adjust to the grass of a baseball diamond. Safety Rodney McLeod said the field was a bit slippery at first, but everyone quickly settled in, especially to a locker room with more space and trappings than are typically associated with football.
“Oh man, it’s nice,” McLeod said. “This is probably my first time inside a baseball locker room and pretty impressed. Those guys live a nice lifestyle so I appreciate them lending us their locker room.”
Each locker had a bobblehead of Angels outfielder Mike Trout in it as a welcome gift, but Bradham gets to use the slugger’s space for the week (see story). Mychal Kendricks received the adjacent locker, where Trout usually stores extra items such as signed jerseys from visiting players and his clothes.
“I just grabbed a locker for the week,” Bradham said. “But that is nice though, to be able to have a guy of that caliber and share the same locker as him. Glad he's letting me rent it for the week.“
Bradham was even more pleased he got a hotel room all to himself. He had to put up with a roommate last season as solo stays are granted only to players with at least six years experience. There are no such issues this time around, but he does view the extended stay as a valuable chance to continue to refine team rapport for the stretch run.
“You get used to being able to be on schedule, not be jet-lagged, I think that’s the advantage,” Bradham said. “Spend time with the boys and build that chemistry, to continue to build it, and study, that’s the main thing. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to get a win.”
Winning is something Agholor did plenty during his three seasons in college at USC, and he is looking forward to being back in the Coliseum as he continues a breakout campaign. Agholor has set career highs with 40 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns, looking more like the star he was with the Trojans.
Agholor had 12 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown in his last game at the Coliseum, a 49-14 win over Notre Dame in 2014. His favorite moment there, however, was in his first game in the stadium that hosted the first Super Bowl.
Marqise Lee had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown in the third quarter of a 49-10 win over Hawaii in 2012, with Agholor serving as the lead blocker coming out of the end zone.
“I got to chip a guy, then I chipped the kicker,” Agholor said. “You would have thought I returned the kickoff return, that’s how hyped I was. That was my earliest and one of the memories that lasts the most.”
Long’s earliest memories of the Coliseum are a bit fuzzier, a young boy when his father Howie was wreaking havoc for the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
Still, Long is excited to have a chance to play in the Coliseum. The venue opened in 1923, which technically makes it the oldest stadium in the NFL while hosting the Rams until their new home in Inglewood, California, is completed in 2020. Chicago’s Soldier Field opened one year after the Coliseum in 1924.
“Definitely even if my dad didn’t play there some, I would appreciate the history of it,” Long said. “I love playing in these old stadiums. There’s only a few left, so it’s going to be a great experience and I’m sure a couple memories will come back.”