Back in the nest, Blake Countess could stick around longer this time
Safety Blake Countess was in the same Eagles’ 2016 draft class as Carson Wentz and some other big contributors to the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory, except Countess wasn’t around to experience the thrill of that victory in February, 2018.
He was in Los Angeles, a member of the Rams after the Eagles released him just months after drafting him when they pared their roster to 53 players.
“Any time a team drafts you, decisions are made and it’s tough and it hurts,” said Countess in a terrific interview recently with Eagles web site content director Chris McPherson. “As a rookie, you’re a wide-eyed rookie, you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what’s going on and I didn’t know where my career was going to go from there.”
Countess was quickly picked up by the Rams, for whom he played three seasons with. But Countess refused to take a pay cut from Los Angeles and was released. The Eagles were only too glad to pick him up.
“It’s kind of surreal being back here, just being back with some of the guys that were here when I was here,” he said. “I think half our draft class is still intact. It’s cool to come back. While a lot of it is new, it’s not completely new. There’s familiarity there.”
Still with the Eagles from that 2016 draft, in addition to their franchise quarterback, are Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Jalen Mills.”
Clearly, the Eagles thought enough of Countess to bring him back into the fold.
“I think that’s one of the things wherever you are, your work ethic, how you interact with people, that’s something they’re going to remember forever so when opportunities like this do present themselves, the door is still open,” said Countess. “If I had not handled myself the correct way the first time around here that door may have been closed. I’m just glad that the organization thinks enough of me to bring me back in.”
Countess has a real chance of sticking around this season. There is competition at safety, for sure, especially from the offseason signing of veteran Andrew Senedejo, as well as from Tre Sullivan, who played 12 games with the Eagles last season, and Godwin Igwebuike, who played in six games in 2018 with two different teams.
Right now, Countess is getting some valuable first-team reps with starters Malcolm Jenkins not showing up for the voluntary OTAs and Rodney McLeod still rehabbing the knee ligament he tore last season.
The team begins its final week of OTAs on Monday and the media will be allowed to watch practice then as well as on Wednesday.
Jenkins turned up at Carson Wentz’s charity softball game on Friday night to support his teammates and help Wentz raise money for his AO1 Foundation; whether or not he appears this week for the team’s third and final week of voluntary OTAs remains to be seen.
“As a person, I’m older, a little wiser,” said Countess. “I’ve been through it a little more. As a player, same thing, a little more experience, kind of been around, seen how other staffs have done things.
“I went through a coaching change in L.A., so just been around a little bit, a little bit of experience somewhere else then being back here with the same staff, a lot of the same guys, it just put a different perspective on things.”
Countess played 37 games with the Rams the past three years. He counts $1.05 million against the salary cap this year, but the Eagles added another year to bring the cap hit down by about a million from when he was initially picked up. In 2020, Countess would count $1.3 against the cap if he is still on the roster.
“With Los Angeles, they had been in contact with me through the whole pre-draft phase, so we knew there was a lot of interest there, so to be picked up right away was kind of like a sigh of relief,” said Countess. “I went out there and played out there for three solid years. It ended up working out, but it definitely was…that hurts, especially being a rookie coming in as a draft pick.
“You kind of feel like what more could I have done, that type of thing. It’s a lot of questions that go into it. As a player you have to stay away from that stuff and just control what you can control.”
Countess had his own Super Bowl moment last year, when the Rams made it to Super Bowl LII, but L.A. couldn’t finish the deal, losing to the New England Patriots.
“That was amazing,” he said. “That is something you think about, dream about growing up. That’s the biggest football game in the world, so to be able to be a part of that, it was special. Obviously we didn’t get it done, but looking to get that done this year.”