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August 15, 2023

Greg Ward takes it 'day-by-day' as unsung receiver battles for Eagles roster spot

The undrafted wideout and unsung hero of the Carson Wentz era is still here in Philadelphia, working toward another shot, wherever it might be.

Eagles NFL
8.6.23_EaglesPractice_Greg-Ward-1673.jpg Colleen Claggett/For PhillyVoice

Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward during warmup drills from the team's open practice at the Linc on August 6, 2023 in South Philadelphia.

Greg Ward is still here. 

From signing on as a practice squad player to becoming one of the unsung heroes of a rapidly fading Carson Wentz era, then serving as a transitional piece for Jalen Hurts and a new receiving corps co-headlined by DeVonta Smith and all the way back, the undrafted wideout is still here. 

He's still working, and so far holding up well in training camp. But with an already loaded receiving room, the 28-year old is likely a longshot to make the 53-man roster. 

But he isn't hung up on that. Playing a numbers game as the first wave of cuts loom and trying to imagine where he can fit won't get him anywhere. 

"Just get better every single day," Ward said after the Eagles' joint practice Monday with the Browns. "I don't care about none of that. All I care about is progress, my teammates, and just getting better."

Because right now, he's still here. 

There are few Eagles who have arguably had a stranger career trajectory than Ward. 

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Houston in 2017, he's been waived multiple times, signed back multiple times, gave the Alliance of American Football a go before it shut down, and has mostly made his living as a practice squad player. 

In nearly any other scenario, he'd be almost entirely unknown, but this is the one where every Eagles fan knows his name. 

In 2019, the Eagles' receiving corps – and the roster as a whole – was banged up and aging out. There was a push to get one last run out of the Super Bowl LII group, but Alshon Jeffery was on his last legs and struggling to stay healthy and a returning DeSean Jackson was late into his career and couldn't stay on the field either. 

Wentz's options at the time – outside of Zach Ertz at tight end – had grown extremely limited, then up came Ward from the practice squad, who quickly worked his way into becoming one of the former franchise QB's most reliable targets and arguably the team's best receiver by that point as they went and made a late push to the playoffs. 

The stats as a whole weren't entirely impressive – 28 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown across seven games – but watching the offense, you could see it. If Wentz needed an out, Ward was somehow always there. 

That wasn't built to last though. Ward's stats just shy of doubled the following season, but the Eagles – and Wentz – were falling apart. Wentz was eventually benched against Green Bay and Hurts, who at the time was unexpectedly drafted in the second round that April, came in. 

Ward caught Hurts' first touchdown pass, and with that, the transition into a new era began, though one that would go on to not have much space for the unsung receiver. 

Smith was drafted the following April, A.J. Brown was acquired via trade the draft after that, Quez Watkins made headway as the slot receiver over those next two years, and Zach Pascal and then Olamide Zaccheaus were brought in as the versatile fourth options. 

Suddenly the Eagles' receiving corps wasn't so old and banged up anymore. It had developed into arguably one of the NFL's most talented units, leaving Ward to settle back into the practice squad. 

But he's still here, and still working, even if it isn't exactly clear now what comes next. 

"Time flies for sure," Ward said of his run in Philly. "But you know, there are always gonna be new guys in the building. There are always gonna be some old guys they keep, so just got to gel with everybody. Get to know your teammates, and just try to do your best to stick around."

And he's definitely done his part to do so.

In the Eagles' preseason opener last Saturday, Ward caught five passes for 53 yards and a long of 17, having developed a clear chemistry with backup QB Marcus Mariota. 

That carried throughout camp and into this week's joint practices against the Browns, and will likely continue as the Eagles' second- and third-stringers prep for another exhibition against Cleveland and then Indianapolis to close out the summer. 

It may not earn him a spot on the 53-man roster in the end, but it is building up film. There's definitely a place for him in the NFL, but whether it's back on the Eagles' practice squad or a shot somewhere else isn't clear yet. 

Either way, he's made his impact here in Philadelphia – a rather unique one at that – and has developed the type of notoriety amongst the fan base that feels like it can only ever happen in this city.

And through it all, he's still here. 

Whatever comes next, cross that bridge when you get to it. 

"I take it day by day," Ward said. "Get better today. That's all I can worry about."

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