PHILADELPHIA – It's Dallas Week and the NFC East is at stake. Time to pull it together.
Carson Wentz had a golden opportunity to stand up in support of Eagles teammate Kamu Grugier-Hill. All of the QB did not have the use of the legendary curiosity-Hill did to the Cowboys, who the Eagles oppose Sunday, but that he has the back of his linebacker.
Instead, Wentz distanced himself from the man who, in an excitable moment, said the cowboys have a history of choking and would just do that Sunday.
"Yeah, I mean I do not want to dive into that at all," Wentz said. "All I know is we, and myself personally, have a lot of respect for that team. A lot of respect for that team and what they're doing this year. "
Grugier-Hill obviously would like to have his sound bite to do over. Head coach Doug Pederson wishes it had not happened. He tried to defuse it during a conference call with Cowboys media. It's an isolated event. Grugier-Hill is a solid citizen, a total team player and well-liked by colleagues in the loose room.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long, the Eagles' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, made the media smile. Then he got serious.
"It's not something I'd say but I've got his back," Long said. "It's going to be a physical, intense football game. And at the end of the day that's all it comes down to. I've got Kamu's back. Everybody's got each other's back. That's what a team's about. "
Safety Malcolm Jenkins is totally in the corner of Curiosity Hill. It's not Jenkins' style to trash talk but it's much worse in the heat of competition. He's got KGH's back.
Why Wentz dismissed the chance to stand tall. Super Bowl 39 when outspoken eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell called out New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, saying, "I've got something for you, Harrison."
Donovan McNabb left Mitchell hanging. So, many of Mitchell's teammates did. McNabb threw two interceptions to Harrison, Mitchell and the Eagles Lost, 24-21, to become a very beatable Patriots team.
– Freddie Mitchell (@ FMitchell84) June 1, 2018
That's the last NFL appearance for FredEx. In the NBA Finals last year, he applauded Lebron James for sticking up when then-Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith mistakenly dribbled out the clock in a tie game. The Cavs would be loose in overtime to the Golden State Warriors.
"I gotta regard @KingJames for standing up for his teammate. McNabb would never do that for me. "
If the Eagles loose Sunday, critics will blame it on the Curiosity Hill for inciting the Cowboys. If the Eagles win, it's probably not going to be because Grugier-Hill contributed three pick-sixes. The teams are too evenly matched.
Too often, professional athletes think they should sanitize what they say. The confident players roll with their instincts and lead by example.
Eagles players kept it real Thursday with a locker room prank. Wide receivers Shelton Gibson hid his face with towels and a hoodie and slipped into Curiosity-Hill's no. 54 jersey. Gibson performs the Walk of Shame to Curiosity-Hill's Lax Practice Thursday, a mob of reporters in tow. Gibson sat down with his back to the pack, the microphones encircling him. Teammates shot smart phone video. He could not stay in character, rising and walking with a big smile.
But back to Wentz. He was courageous in his second season with the Eagles when he met Jordan Matthews was dealt Buffalo Bills for Ronald Darby.
"It's one of those things where there's the personal side of things and the football side of things," Wentz said. "The football side of things, you've just got to trust what they're doing upstairs But on a personal side, it's tough. This is my first time experiencing something like this.
Here's hoping Wentz gets to that place again.
If you're the unequivocal leader of the team, the guy who's going to lead it to championships, you can do better than this:
"I just want to say personally," Wentz said of the Cowboys, "and as a team we have a lot of respect for them and we're excited for this one."