Be Thankful for Eagles Team Leaders

If the Eagles right the ship in 2020 it will be due to veteran leaders like Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce
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PHILADELPHIA - It was the day before Thanksgiving for a 3-6-1 football team in the midst of a quarterback controversy aided by the accelerant of the head coach's hesitation, all in a COVID-19 world which had turned most of an average day for NFL players into a virtual one.

It would have been easy for veteran players like Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce to get out of dodge and get a head start on Turkey Day, putting off Zoom-questioning periods until later in the week.

Both All-Pros stood tall Wednesday and talked about accountability, however.

"I mean, the first things first, is holding myself accountable, which I do," said Cox when asked about fighting through a disappointing campaign. "I have really high expectations of myself. I'm very hard on myself and just continue to be the leader that I am."

For the understated Cox that means leadership by example.

"Grab a guy here, grab a guy there, kind of give him a few words and just let him know," said Cox. "It's a team sport, so everbody's just got to stick together and not kind of check out because we're 3-6-1 but we're still No. 1 in this division, and everything we want, everything we need to do is right in front of us and it's gonna start on Monday night against a really good football team."

Good leaders set an example for others by holding themselves accountable first.

"I can do everything better myself. I can be more disruptive, I can split double-teams better," Cox said. "It's so many things that one person - I grab BG, get him going.

"Obviously this team is, I think, it goes how the defensive line go. This defense how the defensive line goes. We get everybody playing at the highest level up front, and everybody feeds off us. We've seen it before, we've seen it happen before, when the D-line at some point, it's just kind of like, everybody kind of follow us and want some of that energy that we have."

Kelce the veteran center who fought through a hyperextended elbow in Cleveland talked passionately about adversity and how it reveals character.

"At the end of the day, we've had a lot of injuries," Kelce said of the offensive line. "... And you still got to go out and execute. That’s part of being a professional, part of being accountable, is going out there and doing your job, regardless of the circumstances, find a way to get it done."

Kelce also took stock of himself first.

"We're all just trying to do our part and trying to do everything we can to facilitate a successful offensive line," said Kelce. "And we've had a lot of adversity. We're starting to get a little healthy now. So hopefully we'll be able to start to build some of the cohesion and everything moving forward through the end of the season."

From a larger perspective, the rest of 2020 will determine who will be here in 2021 and beyond, according to Kelce.

"I think integrity is often tested in times of adversity," the veteran said. "... when times get tough, guys expose themselves for who they are, and what they believe in, and what their values are. And you find out a lot about people through times like this into adversity."

That can cut both ways and Kelce still sees a lot of positives around the NovaCare Complex.

"I think that we have great people here, I think we have great coaches, great people of integrity," said Kelce. "And I think that that's allowed us in a lot of seasons here to push through tough times and to continue to fight. I don't see a lack of fighting, a lack of effort, a lack of accountability in the team."

If that holds true moving forward, it will be because of leaders like Cox and Kelce.

"It's not getting done, and that's not acceptable," Kelce said. "But that's kind of my job. My job is to stay true to all that, so the young guys, people in this building that are looking for guidance, and people, even outside of this building, that is looking at me as a role model, young people or whoever, see that, and they say, that's the right way to do things. That's the way that it should be done.

"... I'm far from perfect. Everybody knows that. But you just try and do the best you can. That's all you can do."

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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