Inside Voices: Wolff Says He’s Ready
Earl Wolff says he feels good enough to play on Saturday night. Now it’s just a matter of whether the training staff and coaches give him the green light.
The rookie safety sat out practice the past two days but tested the injured right knee on the side during the Eagles’ walkthrough on Thursday, and came away feeling confident that he is ready to re-enter the fray.
“I just know that it felt a lot better today than it did before. They kind of recorded me moving around a little bit, doing some functional stuff, and it didn’t bother me,” he said.
“It was football activitity, basically like what I would go through in a game, and it didn’t really bother me. Of course I felt it a little bit –I’m going to feel it a little bit — but it’s nothing that’s going to hold me back.”
Wolff added that this is the best he has felt since hyper-extending the knee back on November 10 in Green Bay. He missed the next four games before returning against Chicago, and ultimately left that game early after re-aggravating the knee. He was inactive for last week’s tilt in Dallas.
Even if he is healthy enough, there is the issue of rust.
“Honestly, it’s not really a concern for me. I practiced all last week. I didn’t do too much this week but felt pretty good about where I was today, and I’m going to go in there with all the confidence in the world if I do [play].”
Wolff says the trainers will probably put him through some drills on Saturday before the game to see where he’s at. Patrick Chung, who has struggled, will likely start opposite Nate Allen regardless. Kurt Coleman may be part of a safety rotation if Wolff can’t go.
Chip before, during and after
The night before a game, Chip Kelly addresses his team in the hotel. He’s not big on rah-rah speeches right before the team takes the field, but uses this time to get his team into the right mind frame. He’ll often use stories from the outside world to illustrate a greater point, referencing anyone from Warren Buffett to an extreme kayaker to get his message across.
His approach prior to the win-or-go-home Cowboys game last week was a little different.
“Sometimes he’ll give longer speeches when he feels the need, and sometimes he’ll keep it quick. And this time, everybody knew how big of a game it was, so there was no point for him 24 hours before the game to re-state the obvious,” said linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
“This time his main focal point was: Be caught being yourself. Because the fact of the matter is, if you prepare well Tuesday through Saturday, all you have to do on Sunday is be you. Don’t try to be any different. Don’t try to be greater. Don’t try and be a hero. Don’t do anything heroic. He said you want to be caught in the act of being yourself.”
In the locker room right before the game, Kelly kept it short and simple, then handed the floor over to Duce Staley to break it down as he always does.
The repeated message in-game: Play to your training.
At the half, with the Eagles holding a 17-10 advantage, Kelly had this to say, per Casey Matthews:
“Take care of business and play like you know how to play, and you’ll come back champions.”
The Eagles were able to hold on and a celebration broke out on the sidelines in Dallas. A couple players said they tried to give Kelly a Gatorade bath but “he was too quick.” One promised to get him after the next big win.
The players finally tracked him down in the locker room. With the party in full swing, Kelly lifted his voice over the noise to offer the following;
“Since April he’s been saying, ‘If you do everything right, you’ll look up on December 29 and like where we are,’ ” said Acho.
“At the end of the game, he said, “I told y’all we would look up on December 29. Well, today is December 29 and I think we’ll like where we’re headed.’ So that was a pretty monumental moment, to see that come to fruition.”
The spirit of St. Nick
Nick Foles was doing his best Santa Claus impersonation. He crept into an empty Eagles locker room and began placing gifts in the stalls for his offensive linemen. Jason Kelce stayed late that day as well and spotted Foles, so the word leaked out early that the big men were each getting an X-Box One for their efforts.
“That’s huge,” said Kelce. “Nick obviously has an appreciation for what we do…I think that kind of speaks to who he is. He’s very appreciative, humble, team-oriented, for sure.”
Acknowledging the offensive line is not all that uncommon. Donovan McNabb used to take care of his O-line, according to Todd Herremans. They got watches one season, Louis Vuitton bags another. Brian Westbrook used to get gifts for his linemen as well. One time, he gave them all travel packages to use for a vacation of their choosing. The year Leonard Weaver had a big season he got the linemen watches. Shawn Andrews splurged for watches as well when he made the Pro Bowl, Herremans said. Sounds like that group has enough wrist-ware to last a lifetime.
With the team losing and the locker room somewhat disjointed over the last couple seasons, kumbaya moments were few and far between. But the feel this year is different all around. Connor Barwin recently bought Fletcher Cox a bike for his birthday. The offensive line goes out to dinner with one another once a week; same for the front seven on defense. There’s a more unified feel overall.
“There’s a lot of good character on the team,” said Herremans. “Guys definitely appreciate each other and what they do for each other. Plus we’re doing pretty well right now — that always helps.”
There is still one big gift to come, they’re told, courtesy of rushing champion LeSean McCoy.
“We’re still waiting. He’s been promising big things,” Herremans joked. “We’re still waiting.”