July 26, 2018
If you ask any random Eagles fan to point out any specific play from their team's first Super Bowl win back in February, odds are that the play at the front of their minds is Trey Burton's "Philly Special" touchdown pass to Nick Foles. For obvious reasons, that is the single snapshot from the game that will last the longest in the minds of anyone who watched.
But, it you ask them for another play, it's likely going to be Brandon Graham's strip-sack of Tom Brady late in the game, a play that more or less sealed the victory for the Birds. Making that play even more impressive, is the fact that Graham was playing in that game with a high ankle sprain, one that he suffered late in the regular season and had surgery for this offseason.
It's one that he is still recovering from now, nearly six months after that epic play.
Despite the hope that Graham would be ready for the start of training camp, the team placed the veteran defensive end on the NFL's Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list Thursday morning, prior to the Eagles' first practice of camp. But following practice, Graham, who had a career-high 9.5 sacks last season to go along with a pair of forced fumbles and a fumble recovery (that he returned for a touchdown), seemed like his usual upbeat self, and had little doubt that he'd be ready for the start of the regular season.
"I’m running and doing stuff now," Graham said as he walked to the locker room after watching his teammates go through practice at the NovaCare Complex. "Just being smart, trying to make sure it [the injury] isn’t something that comes back. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m ready for Game 1. That’s the biggest thing.
"I’m confident. I’m always a confident guy. I’ll just make sure I work one day at a time, like I’ve been doing, but that’s the goal, Week 1."
Ideally, however, Graham would like to make an appearance on the practice field well before the Birds' Week 1 matchup against the Falcons.
"I believe that being in football shape means you’ve got to play football," he added. "I think we’re going to make that call when it’s time. Right now, I’m just trying to be smart and make sure that I’m at least in offseason shape, and then when I get on the field, just making sure I’m getting used to pushing and pulling on people. It’s just a process and I’m embracing it. And I think Game 1 is where we’re shooting for.
So how was he able to get himself ready to play on Sundays last winter?
"I mean, luckily I had three weeks to at least get ready [for the playoffs]," Graham said. "And then I made sure that during the week, I didn’t really go as hard, but I tried to make sure that I was in condition so that I could go. I know that on game day, with you having that adrenaline going and just wanting to compete, I wasn’t going to think about it. Just pushing through it, but sometimes you gotta do that if you want to win."
And win, they did.
Now, the Birds will have to shed their underdog label from a year ago — the players have been wearing t-shirts that read, "Embrace The Target" around the facilities. And you better believe that message comes straight from the top.
"Everything [that happened] was last year, and now we’ve got a new year,'" Graham said when asked about head coach Doug Pederson's message to the team on the first day. "Now, it’s on us to go out there and put it on film, in practice. I think they did a good job for the first day. Everybody, you know, is always rusty on the first day and then you kind of get your rhythm. But I just think that with [Pederson], last year is last year.
"[We’ve got a] new identity this year — let’s go out there and embrace it."
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