Eagles Stick Together Through Media Storm
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Things were a little bit different at the NovaCare Complex Wednesday when a media horde described by a team spokesman as the largest in recent memory descended on South Philadelphia to get the Eagles' thoughts after President Donald Trump canceled the team's planned trip to the White House at the 11th hour.
Instead of the Eagles spending Tuesday on the South Lawn of the White House they were on the familiar turf at NovaCare after the POTUS nixed things when the White House was informed the Eagles’ delegation would be much smaller than originally anticipated: fewer than 10 people total, a group expected to include Jeffery Lurie, Doug Pederson, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and the team's mascot Swoop.
All-Pro center Jason Kelce insisted he wasn't disappointed with the developments and acknowledged each member of the locker room brings something different to the mix.
“You realize quickly, being in a locker room like this, that’s you’re not going to agree with everybody,” Kelce admitted.
Like most of the Eagles players who spoke Wednesday, Kelce side-stepped questions on whether or not he wanted to be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but did get poignant when talking about the disconnect in America right now.
“I think it’s a little bit disappointing as a country right now that we’re so divided," he said. "Everybody is in their little bubble and not willing to listen to others that may think differently than they do. I think that’s the bigger disappointment.”
Chris Long, one of the Eagles more outspoken players, insisted that any added attention on the team coming from outside the building would not affect those in the locker room.
“I think we’re 100 percent unified going into this week," Long insisted. "So it’s mathematically impossible to be any more unified.”
Long was more evasive when asked about the lack of support from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Lurie after the White House accused the team of engaging in a 'political stunt' to embarrass the administration.
"I don’t speak for the commissioner," Long explained. "If he doesn’t want to stand up for his players, that’s not really my business. I know my teammates are great men. ... What the commissioner wants to do, that’s not my business.”
The tact was similar with Lurie, who left it to Pederson to explain what went on.
“What Jeffery Lurie does isn’t my business," Long said. "What we do is our business. We made a decision as a team. … I think Jeffery has been supportive of our off-the-field stuff."
As for the White House's accusations Long played coy when asked about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' bait-and-switch allegations.
“Who is that?" Long asked rhetorically "I don’t know who that is.”
For the record Long does know who Sanders is but the theme of the day from the Eagles was moving on from the controversy.
For Zach Ertz that meant defending his teammates, no matter the differences they might have.
"Everyone in this locker room understands that everyone [else’s] heart is in the right place,” the Pro Bowl tight end explained. “We weren’t going to let someone try and formulate an agenda.
"Everyone has been treated with love and respect, beginning last year. Everyone understood that Malcolm [Jenkins] was vocal in his beliefs, but he also did a lot of amazing work in the community. And people love and respect him for doing all that amazing work in the community. I think that’s what’s unique about this locker room, is that everyone’s treated with respect, people truly care about one another, people respect other people’s opinions."
Jenkins, meanwhile, sent the White House a message Wednesday by not talking.
Appearing in front of a media throng that far outnumbered the players in the locker room, Jenkins held up a series of signs describing why he and other NFL players decided to stage protests during the national anthem.
As reporters began asking him questions, Jenkins simply kept showing placards he prepared, the first of which was short and to the point: “You aren't listening."
From there the Eagles' Pro Bowl safety, who has worked tirelessly for social reform in the criminal justice system, shared information he wants others to know.
Different messages from different backgrounds with one commonality best described by Ertz.
"Nothing’s going to be able to tear this locker room apart,” the TE said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's piece on why 'The Cleanse' in Cleveland was about more than losing at GetMoreSports.com