Still Standing: Celek Sets Tone For Eagles

Brent Celek scores in the first quarter.

Brent Celek set up in-line next to right tackle Allen Barbre. When Nick Foles took the snap, he released and headed up field before turning diagonally to the sideline on a corner route.

Foles scanned the field, tried to move the safety with his eyes and then came back to Celek. The eighth-year tight end turned his body towards the line of scrimmage, reached his hands over his head and made the grab for a 22-yard gain. Just as he did, safety Patrick Chung lowered his shoulder into Celek’s chest, while cornerback Malcolm Butler sandwiched him and knocked his helmet off.

Celek rose to his feet, turned towards the end zone full of Patriots fans, balled his fists and let out a yell.

"When a guy like that makes a catch like that, takes a hit and helmet falls off and jumps right up, it’s a boost to everybody," said Nick Foles. "...With the young guys seeing that, they see the fire you need. It just gives you something. I know when I saw that, it just pumped me even more than I was because one of my teammates sacrificed for us at that moment and just got up and was ready to go. He’s just got that toughness. He’s very unique."

It's a scene Eagles fans have seen play out for years. Celek has played in 117 games for the Eagles (regular season and postseason). This was the first quarter of a preseason game in August, but he was playing the way he always does.

"Some hurt more than others, but I don’t want the defense to know that they’ve done anything to me," Celek said. "I want it to seem like, ‘He can take whatever, you can’t hurt him.’ That’s just my mentality.

"If I was to lay down there and if I was hurting, it’s a sign of weakness from our team. If you get up… it didn’t faze us. We’re good."

Added Todd Herremans: "No matter how hard he gets hit, I think it fires him up. There’s two ways you can go on that. You can show that it hurts. Or you can get up and show that they can’t faze you. And that’s kind of his mindset.

"Everybody loves to see that - a nice big gain and then Celek getting up and doing his little flex thing and showing his little biceps, everybody loves that."

The mentality developed at an early age. Celek grew up as one of five children, including three boys. The kids were always horsing around and taking care of stuff around the house.

Asked to recall a specific moment when he realized being a part of the Celek family meant being a little different, he said: "Probably when my Dad hit my Grandpa in the head with a backhoe, and he’s like 80 years old. My Dad just kept working. He told my cousin, he’s like, ‘Just take him to the hospital. We’ve gotta keep working around here.’ "

Trent Cole met Celek a little later in life, when the two attended Cincinnati together.

"Whenever me and him would go up against each other in college, it would be a battle," Cole said. "I knew when I had to come up and go against him, I knew I had a load on my hands because he was going to try everything he could just to try and beat me.

"He’s been a brute, man. He can take hits. He can break tackles. He’s a hard runner. That’s one thing about him. Everybody knows Brent Celek is one of the toughest tight ends in the league."


It's a question that probably wouldn't have been asked 10 years ago. And while Celek very much plays the role of a throwback, he realizes the times are different.

Given the punishment you've taken, do you ever think about life after football?

"With how I feel after I take care of my body, I feel OK," he said. "I feel like right now, I’m fine. This sport has given me a lot. This city has given me everything I have. So I want to give ‘em all I’ve got. I don’t really think about life after football while I’m out there on the field. I will when I’m done."

In 2011, Celek started all 16 games. He played 971 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, sixth most among tight ends.So when an e-mail dropped in reporters' inboxes days after the season ended, many were surprised. The announcement from the team said Celek had undergone surgery for a pair of ailments: a sports hernia and a torn labrum.

Yet he never missed a game. In fact, Celek has appeared in 111 of a possible 112 games in his career.

But he turns 30 in January, and the maintenance is different nowadays. The key, Celek said, is a one-hour stretching routine he performs religiously before going to sleep.

"It’s a daily occurrence," he said. "If I don’t do it, my body, I can just start to feel it in certain areas doesn’t feel so good. It’s something that I’ve gotta stay on and probably have to do it, honestly, for the rest of my life, just to feel good, make my body feel good.

"I do it before I go to bed because it helps me sleep faster. That’s one thing I noticed. Usually after practice, you sit in meetings, and then I go home. I get a little stiff. So really, it’s just kind of to loosen up my back, loosen up my lower body, my shoulders. Naturally, I’m just a tight person. I’m not the most flexible guy, so it’s just something where I can kind of loosen up my joints, I feel good. And then when I lay down, I feel completely relaxed."


Not a lot has been written about Celek this summer. Instead, the attention has shifted to the newer, shinier toy: Zach Ertz. The second-year tight end looks poised to become a weapon in the Eagles' passing game. He has the ability to use his size to beat man coverage and should be a weapon in the passing game.

By all accounts, the two players have a great relationship. Ertz recently referred to Celek as a "beast" and said he thinks the veteran run-blocks better than any tight end in the game.

"He’s a true team player," said Ertz. "All he cares about is getting the win, getting that big catch. He doesn’t care whether he’s about to get his clock cleaned. That speaks volumes about him."

Last year, Celek played 906 snaps; Ertz played 482. The gap between those numbers will almost certainly close this year, but their roles are still different. Celek is worlds ahead of Ertz as a run-blocker, and the ground game is still the foundation of the Eagles' offense.

But with questions surrounding the Eagles' weapons in the passing game and given the way Ertz has performed this summer, he's destined for an increased role. In 2013, Celek caught 32 balls, his lowest total since 2008, but he averaged a career high 15.7  yards per catch and still had six touchdowns. Ertz caught 36 balls and came on strong during the second half of the season.

"I think we can really help this offense, especially what we do in the run game," Celek said. "Obviously what Zach can do in the pass game, James [Casey] with how he can help in the run game as well and the pass game. We’re all very versatile, and we need to help lead this team."

That could mean more multiple tight end sets, or it could mean Ertz stealing snaps away from Celek if the Eagles stick with more 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, three WR).

Whatever the case, there's no denying that Celek is a favorite of the Eagles' coaching staff. Whenever Chip Kelly talks about him, it feels like music should be playing in the background as some sort of inspirational video.

"I think Brent sets a tone not only for the offense, but everybody here in terms of his physical toughness and mental toughness," Kelly said. "He's a guy I think you can count on a daily basis. He's always out there.

"He loves playing football, and for some guys, they may have been down for a long time and had the trainers come visit them and get carted off and all those other things. I think he takes a lot of pride in his toughness and never wants to lay on the field. He's a guy that I think the people especially on this team, when you watch him on a daily basis in terms of what he does, really admire how he plays the game."

As he approaches Year 8, Celek's exact role is somewhat uncertain. But he will continue to do what he does best, whether it's practice, the preseason or the Super Bowl: show up, get up and set the tone.

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  • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

    “Show up, get up, and set the tone”.

    Perfect quote for Celek. One of my all-time favorite Eagles.

    • paul from nc

      Sounds like that was Chungs best play in a long time.

  • Kleptolia

    You know, just looking at Celek and Ertz, not even factoring in the depth behind them, I think the Eagles have one of the best (probably the best) TE situations in the league.

    • aub32

      I think I would take Gronk or Graham and whoever as a number 2 over what we have. I am also curious to see how our TE depth measures up with what they have in allas. I’m interested in seeing which team Skins (Reed), Boys (Escobar), or Eagles picked up the best young TE.

      • macadood

        Ladarius Green and Gates in SD too…though Gates is quite old at this point

        • aub32

          I forgot about that combo. Gates still thinks he has plenty left in the tank.

          • peteike

            no way, Gates is old and slower. May have hit the red light but def not plenty

      • Ty

        problem with that is the guy behind graham isn’t so good and same for gronk. last year when gronk was hurt we never heard about anyone filling in for him I am sure someone did but if he was halfway ok as a TE we would have heard something especially how bill beliCHEAT uses his TE’s and when graham was out for a game not to long ago I think his backup only caught one ball. we have close to the best TE situation not the best single TE but our top 2 or even if you add casey our top 3 would be in the running.

        • aub32

          I’m not saying our TE position isn’t really good. I think it’s just a matter of preference. We lined up in a lot of 11 personnel last year. So I would prefer one dominant TE over two good TEs. This doesn’t apply to guys like Davis or Thomas. Gronk and Graham are two of the best non QBs in the game.

          • Ty

            no your right if we only have one TE on the field in 11 personnel or whatever you wanna call it. if you got a 1 TE formation yeah gronk would prolly be the best, if your not asking him to block, yeah go graham. Davis Thomas or even that guy in Cleveland is good. I think we will see a lot of 2 tight end set 12 personnel(?) whatever chip calls it. and I love the fact that our number 3 guy who barley even gets to play night be better than some teams starters. I am no expert but I can only think of maybe 10 teams who are really utilizing their tight ends like this. and I think we can all agree Ertz could very well put up numbers as good as graham’s in this system plus more chances (more snaps run by the eagles each game more chances ect.). it is just preference when it comes to it but I rather kick the lil slot guy off the field and and line up big ole ertzy opposite celek or in the slot, not only as recevers or blocking in the running game but screens/rockets/bubbles and all that jazz as a blocker guaranteed some good yardage

      • @PhilthyBird215

        you can rest assured our TEs and depth are better than all in the devision.

        you see my friend. when looking at the TE position in order to project future production. One must factor in the man at the helm of it all downing the title “head Coach”! more importantly the MAN’s out look on the position. The Sikins MAN’ has a not so good record with TE position throughout his play calling days. and the people in BIG “D” don’t even know what “play calling” means!.

        to get to my point. Chip like utilizing TEs thus better members

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    one of probably 3.5m reasons it’s good I’m not the GM, was kicking around the idea of cutting Celek last off-season. in fairness, he found fountain of youth in smoothies, cause he looks tremendous under Kelly.

    • Kleptolia

      At least you’re not afraid to admit an error in judgment.

    • peteike

      I was right there with you, hatin on Celek and calling him washed up and a step slower. Im happy to say I was wrong, still want Ertz to take over though.

      • @PhilthyBird215

        you guys are insane with all this talk about cutting Celek.
        believe it or not. He is the best TE on this team. He was last year and the year before that….etc. and will be for a while to come.

        Celek’s game dose not show up in the stats.

        He is responsible for many things on any given play.
        last of which are catching passes.

        just look at the friggen tape. Aristotle!

  • JosephR2225

    Eagles release Fluellen.

  • Robert Baer

    Next to Shady breaking ankles, my favorite part of an Eagles’ game is a fast strike in stride to Celek and watch as he runs through a few people, or jumps over them. Then when he’s ready to let someone else carry the ball, he stands up and does his “release the beast” maneuver.

  • Anonymous

    And that’s why Celek was my first Eagles jersey :)

  • GreenBleedin

    The only reason Chung made the hit is because he had a flashback and thought he was an Eagle again.

    • Philly0312

      Thats exactly what I thought as soon as Chung hit him

    • John J. King

      He was accidentally in the right place as well.

  • Kevin.Rosenberger

    Wonderful write up. Celek is a pro who has found new youth under Kelly. Like many others. With him and Ertz our tight ends are extremely solid.

  • eaglesfan, 20-win failure

    anyone notice how that helmet-to-helmet wasn’t called? almost 30 penalties, mostly nonsense and this got missed. good work.

    • theedevilsadvocate


    • MagatBrackendale

      Still inconsistent.

  • theedevilsadvocate

    celek is the man took that hit like a champ and held on to the ball i was fired up when he jumped up myself.

  • Steven Dunwoody

    “…and the ground game is still the foundation of the Eagles’ offense.”

    My Eagles fandom began in the Andy Reid era. This sentence…


  • Ty

    I hate how people say one of my all time favorites when the guy is still playing. can’t he just be you favorite right now? or one of you favorite Eagles? when you put “all time” in front you make him seem like he retired 4 years ago and just said something inspiring on ESPN as an analyst. Brent Celek IS my favorite Eagle.

  • MagatBrackendale

    I cannot imagine all that reaching and catching and pounding with a torn labrum. I had a similar shoulder injury and could hardly brush my hair for several weeks. And any kind of hernia!!

    “Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
    Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
    I’m still standing after all this time”

    from those sage philosophers Bernie Taupin and Elton John. ;~D

  • Morganc

    Celek caught some flack in the final two years of the Reid regime, when we were losing. I remember seeing and hearing ppl complain about him dropping the ball, or getting too fired up over a simple play. But the guy is just a beast. You cannot turn off intensity, and I think it is just his way of giving it his all. Now that the team as a whole is back on the right track, I think we can appreciate what this guy brings. We can almost take as a given that every time he catches the ball, he will break tackles and drag defenders with him. He’s always been sneaky athletic as well (Ed Reed hurdle anyone?). Basically, I just love this guy. True Philly player and toughness.

  • RJ

    I’m glad he is still here. I don’t get some people who kept trying to tell me we NEEDED to trade Celek because he “doesn’t have it anymore”. The fact of the matter is that he can still flash his receiving ability, and he is a much better blocker now. He’s becoming the total package, and we need ALL the hands on deck that we can get in terms of making plays at WR/TE this year.