Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles will practice Wednesday for the first time this week. Their sessions are at the University of Minnesota. As of Tuesday, Doug Pederson had not decided whether it would be a padded practice.
All players and coaches on the Eagles will meet with reporters Wednesday morning. Pederson has an 11:15 a.m. news conference, and Nick Foles will follow at 11:30 a.m. The rest of the team will then be available for 45 minutes.
— Zach Berman
By now, you've heard that Nick Foles contemplated retirement after the 2015 season. But what would he have done if he went through with retirement?
"Right now, I go to seminary in the offseason, graduate school, so maybe being like a high school pastor or something. I grew up in the restaurant business, and that's always something I wanted to do," Foles said. "My dad's done it well for a long [time] — he's 71 years old now, and he's one of my heroes. So, watching him, the ability to work with him and learn from him is something I look forward to doing some day. And I've already started that process slowly."
Foles, who makes his offseason home in Southern California, takes online classes at Liberty University. He started last offseason with six course hours per week. But he didn't sign up for courses this semester, which started Jan. 16.
"I was a little busy," Foles said. (He plans to sign up next semester.)
That's a fine backup plan, although it turned out becoming a backup quarterback was a smart decision. But Foles, 29, has put thought into life after football.
"When you're playing in the NFL, you can only do this for a short amount of time," Foles said. "Guys retire before they're 30. If you play forever, you play into your 40s — and you're still a young man with a lot of life left to live. … That's what I've enjoyed in the offseason, being able to take classes, do that. It makes it easy to go play."
In 2000, before Bill Belichick won five Super Bowls as a head coach, he was in his first season as the Patriots coach and preparing for a game against the Cleveland Browns. The quarterback for the Browns that day was Doug Pederson.
Pederson and the Browns upset the Patriots. Pederson went 20 of 37 for 138 yards and one touchdown while starting in place of Tim Couch. That was Pederson's only win in eight games as a starting quarterback that season, and it remains a highlight in his 14-year playing career.
"It's one of them," Pederson said. "We battled, we hung in there, and beat them in Cleveland. Obviously, at that time, it was great for Cleveland and for myself and the organization. At that time, too, back then, [the Patriots were] … getting themselves in these types of games here. It's definitely one of the milestones in my career as a quarterback."
The Patriots finished 5-11 and won the Super Bowl the next season. An interesting coincidence from that day: Pederson completed a touchdown pass to Aaron Shea, who was Tom Brady's friend and teammate at Michigan.
Early in Vinny Curry's career, he only played on passing downs. He was not considered a three-down player by the previous coaching staff. He finished with nine sacks, playing only 32 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, and there was curiosity about what he could do as an every-down player.
Curry finally became a starter this season, playing a career-high 56 percent of the defensive snaps. Yet Curry's role is considerably different than it was earlier in his career. Curry's primary responsibilities are on early downs, and he comes off the field in some passing situations. Curry had only three sacks this season, but he has found different ways to contribute. He's become a valuable part of the Eagles' top-ranked rush defense, which is not a sentence I thought I would have written four years ago.
"At the end of the day, you've just got to check your ego at the door," Curry said. "Listen, I just try to impact the game as much as I can within the scheme on first and second down."
If the Eagles win Sunday, Curry is one of the players who will feel the most joy. He has been with the Eagles since 2012, one of the last survivors from the Andy Reid era. He also grew up an Eagles fan, so a Super Bowl victory would resonate with him in a way that it would for few others in the locker room.
"It's going to be insane," Curry said. "The fans know."
You're right that this team has notable camaraderie. My take is usually that teams that win have good chemistry and teams that lose have bad chemistry, and you don't know whether it's the chicken or the egg. But the locker room dynamics of this year's team have been apparent since the summer, and Doug Pederson pointed it out right away. A lot of it comes from Pederson and the leadership of the team. They spend time with each other away from football. The defensive backs seem to travel in packs. It certainly hasn't hurt, and it's a factor in the resiliency that's become characteristic of this team.
As far as giving them an edge, I don't think it offers a significant one — or at least compared to factors like talent and scheme. But it's formed character and has allowed them to stay focused and motivated. The "we all we got, we all we need" rallying cry seems real with this group. They'll need it against New England.
That said, they won't beat the Patriots on Sunday because the defensive backs get dinner together. But if it's a tight moment or there's a bout with adversity, players often rely on the brotherhood that's discussed.