Eagles ‘old head’ Brandon Graham is still feeling the fresh air in the locker room – Daily Local

Training camp never gets old for Brandon Graham, the Eagles’ oldest player in his 13th season with the club.

Now, for Graham, 34, the downsizing is simply a message that the season is approaching. And so on Tuesday, the Eagles released wide receiver Jarryd Williams, running back DeAndre Torrey and cornerback Josh Blackwell, and placed wide receiver Brett Toth and tight end Tyra Jackson on the physically disabled reserve list. The latter are recovering from ACL tears and should sit out at least the first four games of the regular season.

At safety and security after a torn Achilles, Graham is looking to win games and avoid the layoff for two more seasons to pass Chuck Bednarik (14 seasons) for the longest career with the Eagles. Amazing for a guy who was a starter but mostly out of it in his first five seasons for the Birds, who took him 13th overall in the 2010 draft.

The fact that Graham keeps company on the longevity lists with Hall of Famers Harold Carmichael and Brian Dawkins, and Bucka Kilroy, who played most seasons with the Eagles, tells you how much he’s committed. The same can be said about the young Eagles team, which likes to call its elder statesman by nicknames.

“Old head, whatever they call me, I still feel like I can lead the team and help the team win,” Graham said. “I just try to be a great example for the guys. Especially with a lot of guys who just respect me for being here so long and seeing me play so hard every day. I try to keep up with the guys and push them to be better as well.”

Before last year, when a torn Achilles in Week 2 ended his 12th season, Graham had averaged 48 snaps over three straight seasons, a surprisingly high total for a 30-year-old vet. Josh Sweet, age 23, averaged 41 snaps last season for the Birds.

Getting back on the field in last week’s preseason opener meant a lot for Graham, who leads the Eagles with 30 sacks since 2017.

“Just being in the locker room before the game, it was that feeling when you know you’re going to play in the game,” Graham said. “I used to be in that locker room just cheering the guys on because I knew I wasn’t going to play until next season. Being here, I’m just enjoying the moment.”

The Eagles bolstered the defensive line in the offseason, signing pass rusher Hassan Reddick, drafting quarterback Jordan Davis (6-6, 340) in the first round and even bringing back Derek Barnett, who combined with Graham to form one of the most iconic plays in Eagles history. While Graham was the one who stripped Tom Brady late in Super Bowl LII, Barnett recovered. Up until that point in the second half, the Patriots had been unstoppable with the ball.

The Eagles are counting on Graham, Barnett, Potts, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Milton Williams, among others, to help the defense stop the run and turn the corner this season.

“Jordan showed me a lot,” Graham said. “He was just building, as I told him. It’s about making sure you’re in the best shape you can be for the season and just making sure you run to the ball.”

Eagles senior defensive assistant and director of player personnel Jeremiah Washburn may know more about the obstacles Graham has overcome over the years than anyone on the team except for a few teammates. Washburn’s father, Jim, was the defensive line coach during Graham’s early years. Graham was already with the Eagles when Jim arrived, and Jeremiah admitted there were arguments and personalities clashed.

“Yes, they did, and it was a different season of life for BG,” Jeremiah said. “I think both he and Fletch had their dad moments. You guys see, (Graham) Mr. Eagle. But even behind closed doors, and I’ll be careful with the comparisons, but I was a young guy in Baltimore with Ray Lewis, and Ray Lewis was very loose behind closed doors, just like he was in front of the cameras. And that’s what Brandon Graham is … in the meeting room, in the locker room, in one-on-ones, in all of it, he’s always in tune. His energy is palpable. What he’s doing with rookie free agents, people around the building, and he’s a productive player and shows up every day. That’s why I love coaching him.”

If Graham stays healthy, he will move up the Eagles all-time list for games played and sacks. With 59 sacks, Graham trails only the late Reggie White (124, 1985-92), Trent Cole (85.5, 2005-14) and Clyde Simmons (76, 1986-93). No defensive lineman has played in more games for the Eagles than Graham, who has 161 games. He says the Eagles are still exploring who they are and what they can be on defense. As long as he’s around, hard work will be part of the identity.

“My mindset and our focus is just let’s do better tomorrow,” Graham said. “I’m happy for the young group because they want to listen, they want to learn and they want to get better.”

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NOTES >>The Eagles will not face Lions first-round draft pick Jameson Williams in the opener. On Tuesday, the Lions placed Williams, one of the top wide receiver talents in the draft, on the reserve/non-football injured list, ruling him out for at least four games. He has yet to return from his torn ACL. The Eagles also won’t have to worry about blocking Chase Young (ACL injury) in Week 3. Washington placed the defensive end on the PUP list, which will sit him out for at least four games.

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