Eagles’ defensive end Brandon Graham is expecting to take on a bigger leadership role in the locker room this season, and he’s taking the lead during the team’s unique offseason program as well. Graham spoke with the media on Thursday afternoon about the virtual offseason, and his commitment to not living in fear when they do return to work.
Here’s what Graham had to say:
On the virtual offseason program
The Eagles brought in legendary Phil Jackson to speak to the team virtually, and Graham said that he talked a bit about how the Eagles persevered last year. Jackson explained how they have to keep their spirit up in tough moments. He also emphasized that everybody on the team has to know and enjoy their role — if they’re a team, everyone has a place and a job, and that have to accept that until things change. Injuries happen, things happen, but how they handle themselves as a teammate is what matters.
As far as the virtual meetings, Graham said, “It’s cool,” and it makes them feel connected. Sometimes the coaches just get on the calls to see the guys’ faces and take roll call, they also check-in and make sure everyone is doing okay and have what they need. Now that they’re a few weeks in, they’re getting into motivation things.
Additionally, Graham said he’s enjoying this unexpected time with his family. He’s taking the extra time to work on himself personally as well as helping out around the house — Graham noted that some of his chores include taking out the trash, cleaning up after the kids, and giving his wife a break when he can.
He and his wife have also had some opportunities to work out together, something he said has brought them closer — and has given him a chance to realize how tough she is in a competition environment.
Graham posted a video on Instagram of him and new teammate Darius Slay working out together. He said that it felt good to be able to get together with someone, and they were planning it for when things were closer to opening up. But, he pointed out, that they had both been quarantined since they both have kids.
“It felt good to come in contact. I don’t want to live in fear, but I am going to be smart about it.”
He mentioned it’ll be a challenge once everyone gets back together for training camp, but they have some advantages with the same head coach and a lot of returning players. Those guys will just have to lead by example for the new guys when they finally get on the field, and will have to wait until then to build chemistry. The preseason will be key for success.
Graham was asked about his feelings once they do return to the locker room and crowded places — especially since he’s lost two family members to COVID-19 — and he said that he’s going to trust that they’ll be safe.
“Number 1, I don’t want to live in fear, I’m going to trust that the NFL, when they say it’s time to go, it’ll be in our best interest.”
He explained that they’ll have to get back to some type of normal with the situation, but there will likely be some timidness — no bro hugs, but they’ll have to trust that everyone is doing the right things and not being reckless.
“Try to be as normal as I can. Just try to be safe, and not worry about it.”
On the potential of playing without fans in the stands, Graham said that they’ll make the best of it. They don’t know all the plans at this point, but at the beginning if there are no fans, they’ll hear a lot more trash talk from the sidelines, and it’ll feel a little more like a scrimmage.
Being away from the team for this long and missing OTAs hasn’t dampened his excitement for the season, though. Graham said that they have an advantage with so many returning faces, and at the end of this there will still be a Super Bowl trophy to win.
The Eagles didn’t add any defensive ends so far this offseason, and Graham was excited that the front office showed confidence in the guys on the roster.
Graham is also now the longest tenured Eagle — he remembered talking to Brent Celek when he hit 11 years and was mulling retirement, but Graham said he still feels good and just wants to continue to compete for his roster spot.
“It’s an honor to be able to be here 11 years.”
As far as what that means for his role as a leader, he wants to continue leading by example and not try to do too much. Graham said he wants to keep learning from the best, and learning from Malcolm Jenkins was helpful. His goal is to address any issues right away and as they happen rather than try to avoid it and hope problems don’t arise on game day.