Veterans Must Protect the Innocent

Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins.Cullen Jenkins always has a light tremble in his voice following a loss, making it so the pain is audible. Reporters gravitate to him because he gives emotional, unfiltered responses and can strike  into the core of the issue.

On this night, he spoke of his own personal failings.

“I was brought in here, especially coming from a championship team, to try and help instill [a certain mindset]. Not maybe, I’m not doing a good enough job of it,” said Jenkins.

Cultivating a winning culture has not been a problem for the majority of Andy Reid’s tenure. When you stepped into the Eagles locker room you stepped into a winning locker room. Newcomers adapted and learned and passed it down, and on it went.

Suddenly, the Eagles are faced with a crisis. There has not been a playoff win since 2008. There are no remaining members of the 2004 Super Bowl team. Their record is 11-15 over their last two seasons. The young players don’t know what it is to win regularly on this level, and the veterans that do haven’t been able to pass it down. The winning culture has eroded.

To say the rest of the season is totally devoid of meaning is wrong. There can be some long-term harm done if the team continues to implode.

“If we give up then there is no hope, and we can’t do that. You can’t allow it as a veteran,” said Jenkins. “There are a lot of young guys on this team, they’re going to grow into what they see happen. They are going to grow into the type of players they see around them, the veterans, because that’s what they’re going to know. And it’s up to us to set a good example for them so they know what to expect, how to act and how to react during tough times.”

This roster will look decidedly different in 2013, to be sure. But many of the neophytes will be here for the era that’s to come. Guys like Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin and Nick Foles. The hope is that there are at least a couple building blocks in there that can positively shape the future.

They are impressionable, and what they see over the next six weeks will influence them as players. It is incumbent upon the veterans, then, to handle themselves the right way and send the proper messages.

“I just want to go out there and win,” said DeSean Jackson. “For the city and for myself, the team, our pride. We live and die off this game. This is what we love to do. Anything we can do to get a win, that’s really all I care about. I’m  going to continue to go out there and do what I need to do help that.”

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