Kelce On Mathis: ‘They Didn’t Want the Distraction’
Jason Kelce said that there was more of an “underlying tone” to the Evan Mathis contract protests this time around, one that apparently clashed with the symphonic harmony emanating from One NovaCare Way.
“Last year there was some under-the-radar talks about it, stuff that was going on in the media, but nothing really concrete and he never really let it take place in front of the team or anything like that so it wasn’t a distraction,” said Kelce. “At this point obviously he would have missed all of OTAs. It was a much bigger deal throughout the season at this point.”
It was no surprise to Kelce, then, that Mathis was cut out of equation. Same for the rest of the Eagles players we talked to.
This week’s minicamp will wrap on Thursday, marking the end of the offseason conditioning program. Mathis was absent all spring. While everything save the minicamp is voluntary, several of his teammates suggested that he was in violation of an unwritten code of conduct.
“It’s not mandatory to be here but I think guys view it as being mandatory because we want to be here,” said Zach Ertz. “It’s not that Chip [Kelly] is forcing us or anybody else is forcing us. Everybody here wants to be here, and I think that’s the precedent we set.”
“The most important thing that we’re trying to establish here — that I think is established — is a culture,” added Kelce. “It’s a workplace where everybody is in this together, everybody is in this with one another. People look at this like it’s voluntary and that’s fine, but the fact of the matter is that he was one out of 90 guys that wasn’t here so that’s clearly not a part of the team. Nobody has anything personal against Evan — I still consider him one of my best friends I’ve ever had throughout my life, actually — but this is just the nature of the business, the nature of what we’re trying to build here.”
Asked what message can be taken from all this, Connor Barwin said with a laugh, “If anything, the message is, ‘Be here.'” Another one might be, “Don’t go against the grain.”
Outside of the contract squabble, Mathis seemed to be on board with what Kelly and the Eagles were doing. He bought in and performed well under this head coach. He told us that he planned on attending both minicamp and training camp and would have played the season out with the Eagles if he wasn’t cut. But he pushed the money issue this offseason and took things to another level by skipping workouts and apparently asking for a release. That was enough to punch his ticket out of town.
“We can talk of woulda, couldas if he would have came back and so forth, but the fact of the matter is I think the coaches and the offensive line, I think that everybody feels that we have the players to be successful up front, and they didn’t want the distraction,” said Kelce. “That’s what I’m assuming.”