Emotions are beginning to surface for players who may be playing their final game in an Eagles uniform when they meet the Washington Redskins inside FedEx Field at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.
First, quarterback Nick Foles got a misty-eyed during his postgame press conference following the Eagles’ 32-30 win over the Houston Texans last Sunday night.
Now, it’s defensive end Brandon Graham’s turn. Graham’s eyes didn’t water on Wednesday when he talked at his locker for about 15 minutes, but he got awfully nostalgic about his nine years in Philadelphia.
“Right now, it’s like, man, dang, who knows what’s going to happen?” said Graham, who will turn 31 in April. “I don’t know for real, but I just know it could potentially be (my last game). It’ll be emotional, but hopefully we can get into this thing so we can prolong it a little more.”
A win by the Eagles couple with a loss by the Vikings against the visiting Bears on Sunday and the Eagles will be in the playoffs. If the Vikings win, they will be in and the Eagles will be out even if they beat the Redskins. And that would be a wrap on the season, and maybe Graham’s career in Philly.
BG isn’t conceding anything, though.
“I feel good because it ain’t over,” he said. “We’re about to make a run. I feel like we’re going to win this game and the universe is going to help us get this (playoff) thing. We’ll see what happens. Obviously, I haven’t cleaned out my locker because I’m feeling real good about my chances. We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to worry myself about it because I understand it’s a business.”
Graham is the longest tenured member of the Eagles’ defense and has ridden quite the rollercoaster since the Eagles made him the 13th overall pick out of the University of Michigan in the 2010 NFL Draft.
It wasn’t one of the Eagles best draft classes. They selected 13 players that year and included serviceable players Such as Nate Allen, Mike Kafka, Clay Harbor, Riley Cooper, Jamar Chaney, and Kurt Coleman, but also disappointments in Trevard Lindley, Keenan Clayton, and Ricky Sapp.
Graham was clearly the cream of the crop.
It didn’t look that way from the beginning, though. He was labeled a bust at the start, and had to come back from a serious knee injury late in his rookie season. Microfracture surgery was required and that is something many players cannot overcome. Graham did, but was only able to pay three games in his second season.
When Chip Kelly took over in 2013, Graham thought he was on his way out the door, because Kelly was bringing a 3-4 defense and Graham would have to transition to outside linebacker. Travis Long looked to have a leg up in the battle for being an outside linebacker but Long tore an ACL.
“I really feel like I was about to go,” said Graham. “Then Travis Long ended up getting hurt. He played outside linebacker and he got hurt in the last preseason game. I think they made the decision for me to stay. My agent had told me he thought I was gone.”
Instead, Graham excelled, earning a five-year contact at the start of free agency in 2015.
Whether this is the end or nor not, he will not soon be forgotten by Eagles fans. Not after the franchise-turning play he made in Super Bowl LII when he strip-sacked Tom Brady with just over two minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the Eagles protecting a 38-33 lead. The turnover led to a Jake Elliott field goal that gave the Eagles a more comfortable 41-33 lead with 1:10 remaining.
“I feel good where I am,” he said. “I’m excited because I was able to bring a ring to Philly and hopefully it’s not over. For me, I think my heart is always going to be with this city. I’ll be here anyway, because we won a Super Bowl. You have to take advantage of that, just that alone. It’ll help me on what I want to do after football here. So we’ll see.”
Graham and good friend Fletcher Cox have side-by-side lockers and are tied for the sixth-most sacks in team history with 42.5.
If Graham leaves, Cox will become the longest tenured member of the Eagles’ defense. Unlike Graham, though, Cox was signed to a long-term contract as a foundation piece through 2023.
“People say, ‘You been in Philly nine years, man you’re lucky,’” said Graham. “I am. I see a lot of guys come and go. A lot of guys came here that aren’t in here anymore. Me and Riley Cooper always said, we’re still here, still trucking. Now I’m the only one still standing, still talking to a lot of guys that came in with me, the draft. I don’t take it for granted at all.
**“**Working out with Larry Foote, he used to always say, try to stay with Philly as long as you can because as soon as you start bouncing that’s when you get out of the league. It’s true. I’ve seen so many people come to this team, then the next team, then you don’t hear about them anymore. So he’s right.”
Graham plans on being heard from again, whether it’s in Philly or somewhere else.