Before he was paid $63 million during free agency, Byron Maxwell played in back-to-back Super Bowls with the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom. Now he’s planning on a third straight trip with birds of a slightly different feather
PHILADELPHIA — Byron Maxwell has been with his new team, the Eagles, for less than three months, but his new surroundings already feel familiar. “It’s pretty much the same culture as in Seattle, I’m telling you,” Philly’s new $63 million cornerback said after an offseason practice on Thursday. “We had guys that made smoothies in Seattle, too. All that music during practice. It really is the same.”
Maxwell paused for a good 15 seconds, trying to come up with something that’s different. Then he landed on it: Acupuncture. After practice, Maxwell went in for a 45-minute session. But the similarities he sees between Philadelphia and Seattle, where Maxwell played the first four seasons of his NFL career, were a big reason why he signed so quickly with the Eagles once free agency opened. The player who was brought in to batten down a shaky secondary hopes he can help forge another similarity between his old team and his new one: a trip to the Super Bowl.
VRENTAS: The Eagles targeted you in free agency to help fix the back end of their defense. What kind of presence do you want to bring to the secondary?
MAXWELL: Experience. Because I’ve been there before. Knowing what it’s like if we go that far. Because we’re gonna go that far this year—meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We’re gonna go that far. Hopefully that experience I already had, I can help them.
VRENTAS: What gives you that kind of confidence in this team so early on?
MAXWELL: It just comes from what I see out there and how we work. You don’t work that hard and nothing happens. We’ve got the tools, and we’ve just got to put it together.
VRENTAS: You’ve said that in choosing a new team as free agent, you wanted to land with a defense that played a lot of Cover 3 and press-man like you did in Seattle. Why was the scheme a top priority for you?
MAXWELL: That’s my strength. Putting your hands on guys and really disrupting the timing of an offense; getting some balls thrown your way and picking some of them. As a player, you’ve got to know your strength. I felt like I needed to go somewhere where I could use that, so I could be the best Byron Maxwell when I’m out there on the field.
VRENTAS: The Seahawks are known for the Legion of Boom secondary. The Eagles, on the other hand, are known for Chip Kelly’s offense. Do you hope to establish a similar identity here on the defensive side?
MAXWELL: If we could make it like we had in Seattle, that would be awesome. From the brotherhood standpoint, how we communicated, how we loved each other and respected each other’s game. If we can do that here, and duplicate that, we’ll be great.
VRENTAS: With the Legion of Boom, you guys said you knew each other so well, you could communicate silently. How do you create that same chemistry?
MAXWELL: Over time, it happens. Nothing has to be forced. It will happen with the group of guys we have here. Everybody wants to learn, everybody wants to work, everybody wants to get to No. 50. To get to No. 50, the chemistry has to be good.
VRENTAS: No. 50?
MAXWELL: Super Bowl 50.
VRENTAS: I guess when you’ve played in two straight Super Bowls, you can talk more openly about the Super Bowl than other players can. Does it feel like it’s an expected part of the season now?
MAXWELL: Malcolm Jenkins has been to one. Chris Maragos. Walter Thurmond. We’ve got guys in the secondary who have been to the Super Bowl and know what it’s like to go that far. So I don’t think I’m talking a foreign language when I talk like that.
VRENTAS: When you get the kind of contract you got from the Eagles, how much of a responsibility do you feel to give them their money’s worth?
MAXWELL: Yeah, but that’s just me doing my job. When I was getting paid whatever I was getting paid in Seattle, my job was to stay on top and defend the fade. Here, my job is to protect the post and stay on top. So my job hasn’t really changed. When I go out there on the field, I’m not thinking about the contract, so that hasn’t really changed my mindset. Other people might look at me now, and I might get more attention because of the contract, but when I go on the field, nothing has changed. I still want to be the best and do my job to the top ability, just like I did when I wasn’t getting paid like this.
VRENTAS: Protect the post and stay on top—that’s a very specific job description.
MAXWELL: In Seattle, it was stay on top. Basically, don’t allow them to get over your head with deep balls. Here, it’s protecting two routes: the post and the fade. It’s very similar, but certain things about the scheme are a little different here. We play a lot more quarters here than we played in Seattle, for instance.
VRENTAS: Do you feel like you have to prove you were worth that kind of money to anyone who might think differently?
MAXWELL: I don’t really care what people say. But do I have things to prove? Yeah. I always feel like I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I was taken in the sixth round. I feel like I was way better than that. They benched me at Clemson. So I’ve got a lot to prove even though I got this contract. I’ve always got a deep-rooted chip on my shoulder that goes way back. You benched me in college, and I’ve got to show you. It still sticks with me. That’s one of those things. It’s gotten me this far, so I still use it. I turn the bad into a positive.
VRENTAS: Why were you benched at Clemson?
MAXWELL: It was probably a lot of things, but they told me I didn’t practice hard. If anything, though, it taught me a good lesson. Once I got to the pros, and even once I got back onto the field after my benching, I tried to take the mindset that nobody is going to take my spot. It taught me a lesson, it definitely did. But I definitely hold that in the back of my head, like, y’all going to see.
VRENTAS: What was the hardest part about leaving Seattle?
MAXWELL: The brotherhood. The family atmosphere we had there. I still talk to those guys all the time, because I really do feel like they are my brothers. Leaving them was the hardest part.
VRENTAS: Soon after you signed here in Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy was traded to Buffalo and later said that Chip Kelly “got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players.” As you build a relationship with your new coach, did you pay any notice to McCoy’s opinion?
MAXWELL: I don’t think about it. That’s their relationship, and I don’t really know what their relationship was. What I’m focused on is my relationship with [Kelly]. We have a good relationship. We talk. We’re working at it. It’s a regular coach-player relationship.
VRENTAS: In terms of your build, and your style of play, you seem to be Kelly’s ideal cornerback prototype. Did he tell you that when the Eagles were recruiting you?
MAXWELL: You go where you are wanted.
VRENTAS: Both Kelly and your former coach, Pete Carroll, talk a lot about culture. How does Kelly’s team atmosphere compare with Carroll’s?
MAXWELL: It’s pretty much the same. They teach you mental toughness, and being strong, and checking in with yourself and competing with yourself and bringing the best out of yourself every day. That’s really what both of them try to get through to you. They might use different words, but that’s basically what they’re trying to get through. When I heard the rumors [that the Eagles would be interested], I said, let me just look at them and check them out. And everything was good. We’ve got a winning culture around here.
VRENTAS: Is that similarity in the team culture a big reason why you believe the Eagles will go to the Super Bowl this year?
MAXWELL: We will, though.
VRENTAS: That sounds kind of like a guarantee.
MAXWELL: You can take that as a guarantee. That’s just me believing in my team and the product we’re going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way.
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