With Future Uncertain, Brandon Graham Takes Time to Look Back
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There is tremendous turnover for every NFL organization after every season so the end of any campaign sparks reflection among certain players, especially impending free agents who've spent more than a bit of time in a certain city.
That definition fits Brandon Graham to a tee and the veteran defensive end is aware that last Sunday's thrilling win over Houston at Lincoln Financial Field might have been his last home game as a member of the Eagles and this Sunday's regular-season finale at FedEx Field in suburban D.C. may be the denouement of one heck of a Philadelphia chapter.
From perceived bust who once thought he was going to be cut to get Travis Long on the field in 2014 to team leader, all the way to the Super Bowl hero who stripped sacked Tom Brady on the biggest stage of them all, Graham, now 30, is on the verge of finishing up his ninth season with the Eagles after arriving as a first-round pick out of the University of Michigan in 2010.
“I got lucky,” the late-blooming Graham said on Wednesday when looking back at his career. “Chip [Kelly] came in at the right time. It was a fresh start. And on top of that, I started to establish myself a little more. And then Doug [Pederson] came and we won a Super Bowl. But I really felt like I was about to go and then Travis Long got hurt. My agent had told me he thought I was gone.”
Graham also reflected on some advice he got from fellow Michigan man and 13-year NFL linebacker Larry Foote, a constant training companion of B.G. over the years.
“He used to always say, ‘try to stay with Philly as long as you can because when you start bouncing, that’s when you’ve got to leave,’” Graham explained.
Foote, now the LB coach in Arizona, incidentally played 11 of those 13 years across the Keystone State in Pittsburgh.
“It's been true. I’ve seen so many people on this team and then on that team, and then you don’t hear about them anymore," Graham said. "I want to be here as long as I can.”
For now, Graham is guaranteed just one more game with Philadelphia although the Eagles could still reach the playoffs by beating the Redskins and getting some help from the Chicago Bears, who must beat the Minnesota Vikings for the Eagles to play on.
"I ain’t worried about it," the effusive Graham said. "I’m just excited. We’ve just got to make sure we take care of our business. I feel good because it ain’t over and we’re about to make a run. I feel like we’re about to win this game and then the universe is going to help us get this thing. We’ll just see what happens.”
Graham is trying to help that along by any means possible and refuses to even think about removing anything from his locker while perhaps calling on former Eagles tight end Trey Burton, now in Chicago, for a favor.
“I’ll try to get [the Bears] to do everything, pull out all the stops," Graham said.
The problem comes in when you ponder who would likely be Chicago's first-round opponent if the Bears beat Minnesota. Absent a major upset in Los Angeles in which the 49ers beat the Rams that would be the Eagles and it's unlikely Matt Nagy would prefer a streaking, reigning Super Bowl champion over a flawed Vikings team as a first-round opponent.
The odds may be against the Eagles but Graham has already overcome his own to be an integral part of Eagles history.
"I feel good where I am. I was able to get a ring, bring a ring to Philly," Graham said. "And hopefully it’s not over. Hopefully, there’s another one. For me, my heart is always going to be with this city."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen