The first thing you see is the trash bags. For a usual clean-out day in the Eagles' locker room at the NovaCare Complex, the trash bags and the boxes and the stacks of shoes steal the show. Players clean out their lockers and store their keepsakes and give away everything else and, well, it’s a depressing day. You know that the locker room, as the team departs following what is usually a crushing postseason loss or a win/loss that marks a non-playoff season, will never again be the same.
But that’s not how it felt on Wednesday as the Eagles went through the end-of-season routine – meeting as a team, meeting with position coaches, sitting in with head coach Doug Pederson and taking their year-end physicals.
This time there were trash bags, yes, but they carried Super Bowl helmets and jerseys and keepsakes, and each player had a box of cigars, and a Chris Long gift to all – a bottle of top-shelf Crown Royal to enjoy as Super Bowl-winning teams celebrate.
Instead of looking toward the 2018 season, the players spoke with anticipation of Thursday’s Parade for the Ages north on Broad Street before taking a left at City Hall and moving toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
As we continue through the Seven Stages of Celebrating an Eagles Super Bowl Win, we reach No. 4: Locker room clean-out day. There were no tears this time …
Malcolm Jenkins, safety
A Super Bowl winner as a rookie in New Orleans in 2009, Malcolm Jenkins had a totally different experience this time around. Back then he was a reserve cornerback and didn’t have as critical a role as he’s played here. The Saints won their first Super Bowl that season, as the Eagles did here, but that’s where the similarities end.
Instead, Jenkins is experiencing something unique, and he knows it.
“It means a totally different amount to me now,” Jenkins said. “This feels like my Super Bowl. My team. My city. I love it.”
What will this team be known for, Jenkins is asked in a hypothetical manner, in 10 years?
“I think it’s just about perseverance and togetherness,” Jenkins said. “We are the best team I’ve been a part of from top down. When you talk about what we’ve been able to accomplish – and we talk about it a lot, but I don’t think anybody has really sat back and just reviewed it – but all that we’ve fought through with the injuries and have been able to keep it going with our fan base and the mentality … and then having fun with it, probably more fun than anybody else in this league is a special thing to be a part of and something that I will always remember.”
Brandon Graham, defensive end
We last saw defensive end Brandon Graham on Sunday night with his daughter on the set of NFL Network talking about the final-quarter heroics when his strip-sack of New England quarterback Tom Brady forced a takeaway that tilted the game in the Eagles’ favor for good. Graham, playing with a strained hamstring, then was part of the final defensive stand to keep New England out of the end zone and preserve the Philadelphia win.
Now he’s settled down. Scratchy throat, yes, but much more settled down.
“Crazy, fun, emotional, just happy, happy,” Graham said about how he’s felt since Sunday night. “Having my baby girl come up to me after the game saying, ‘We won the Super Bowl,’ is what sticks with me from after the game. That was amazing, man. My wife had been telling her to say that to me and then I picked her up and she said to me, ‘We won the Super Bowl, daddy.’ I said, ‘Yeah, baby we won the Super Bowl.’ That was a good moment for me.”
Rodney McLeod, safety
The post-Super Bowl days have been so crazy for Rodney McLeod that he made sure to take time, like about an entire day’s time, just to get back to the hundreds of friends and family who texted him after the 41-33 win over New England.
And it’s just beginning, really.
“It’s been unreal. You’re on a pedestal, top of the world, feel like the man of the year. All of that. All of those emotions,” McLeod said. “It just feels great, knowing that we pulled it out. It took a lot of hard work, determination, focus, sacrifice. We’re living the dream.
“It sunk in for me when I saw Mr. Lurie (Jeffrey Lurie, Chairman and CEO) holding the trophy (Lombardi Trophy, after the game). I’m down there (on the field) celebrating with my family, shed a few tears, and I see all of my brothers’ emotions running around the field and then I get back to Philadelphia and I see the City of Philadelphia right there to greet us right there when we got off the plane. It hit me, man, and I’m going to enjoy all of it.”
As for the text messages …
“I’ve probably gotten 500 text messages and I literally tried to dedicate a whole day answering and it still hasn’t happened,” McLeod said. “I’ve made a lot of progress, but I’ve still got a lot to go. That’s not even including social media. That’s going to be fun.”
Jay Ajayi, running back
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Miami Dolphins, running back Jay Ajayi knows things have worked out for the best. He played a huge role down the stretch and in the postseason and now he’s a World Champion preparing for a parade.
These are good times, indeed.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “I got to do (Jimmy) Kimmel (late-night television show) with Corey (Clement, running back) and that was cool. Just been enjoying all the cool little stuff from doing that.
“I don’t know if it’s hit me yet. Obviously, when I’m at the parade tomorrow it will probably settle in, just seeing all the people out there. That will be great. But, yeah, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. Remembering that I’m a Super Bowl champion and everything, it’s kind of still a little surreal.”
Ajayi described the mentality of the Eagles, underdogs in all three postseason games, as “an alpha-dog mentality. We believed we were the front runners and we played like that. We played with no fear on the field and it showed.”
Nelson Agholor, wide receiver
Think about how far Nelson Agholor has come in 12 months. Who out there expected him to be such a key contributor in 2017 after struggling so much in 2016? Be honest. Not many hands are up …
“For the two years I was in the league before now, I never knew the sacrifice it took until last year,” Agholor said.
Agholor had nine receptions in the Super Bowl, all from the slot position, and he was a force. All season he’s been a force.
Now he wants more.
“It makes you hungrier,” he said. “Honestly, you’ve experienced the level of focus and the amount of sacrifice it takes so you kind of have a formula for it. To do it next year it’s going to take an even greater amount of sacrifice and focus.”
For now, though, a parade waits. And Agholor can’t wait.
“I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people happy, the joy because we earned it. As a city we earned this opportunity to truly party like we should," Agholor said.
“We’re blessed. We all did it. They did it, too. The people that are smiling, they did it. Playing two games here at home in the playoffs and taking over that and then going over to Minnesota and taking over that, the City of Philadelphia, everybody, we earned this, let’s go party. You guys deserve it.”
That’s what is next in the Seven Stages of Celebrating an Eagles Super Bowl Win: The Parade. And it’s going to be a day that will last forever.