PHILADELPHIA – It’s not hard to blame Fletcher Cox for wanting out, is it?
The veteran defensive tackle only has to cast a wandering eye to Arizona to see the situation Zach Ertz landed in then sweep his gaze across the locker room to see the roster construction underway.
Cox will be 31 next month. He plays defensive tackle, a demanding position that takes its toll on a player physically.
How many more years can he be productive?
How many more years does he have left to add a second Super Bowl ring?
All questions he can’t be blamed for asking, especially when you watch the recently-traded Ertz playing for a 7-1 Cardinals team with a roster that could land in the Super Bowl this year or in the next couple of years.
Cox did not admit that any of it has him thinking about what life would be like on the other side of the hedges and iron gates that surround the Eagles’ training facility in South Philadelphia.
At least he didn’t on Friday when he took the podium inside the media tent following one of the Eagles’ final practices before hosting the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday (4:05 p.m./CBS).
“Not once did I think this team is rebuilding, said Cox. “I think we’re just trying it to figure out. That’s not my job to go on if we’re rebuilding or not. I think my job is to remain professional and continue to be the pro that I am.”
It’s no secret that the Eagles fielded calls on Cox prior to the trade deadline earlier in the week.
A report on Sunday morning from CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora said the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers were talking about a deal because the Steelers aren't sure when Stephon Tuitt will be able to return to play.
According to LaCanfora, Cox's restructured contract would have made it feasible for the Steelers, who have a limited cap situation, to make the move.
In the end, Pittsburgh balked at the third-round drat pick the Eagles wanted in return in part because the Steelers have given up more draft capital in recent years than is their usual way of doing business.
Cox said he was kept informed by GM Howie Roseman of the situation.
“There were some teams interested in me,” said Cox. “The most important part about it is they wanted me here, I wanted to be here, I’m happy to be here
“…You can’t get give nothing but respect to this organization for doing that. I haven’t been anywhere else, but most places include the player until that choice-making or whatever. Howie and Nick (Sirianni) did a really good job communicating with Todd (France, his agent) and me. At the end of the day, I’m still an Eagle, so I’m ready to go play on Sunday.”
Still, there have been some who have questioned Cox’s effort in games, saying he doesn’t look like the same player.
Perhaps time has already begun to take its toll.
It can’t be that Cox got fat and happy with the mega-millions the organization has bestowed upon him during his 10 years with the Eagles. He just doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would go all Nnamdi Asomugha on the city but or, even more importantly his teammates, guys like Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, and Jason Kelce, guys Cox has sweated and bled with for the better part of a decade.
Maybe there is something to the scheme that he is being asked to play under rookie defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, a system he spoke openly against after the loss in Las Vegas in Week 7.
Asked how his relationship with Gannon was, Cox said: “It’s good. He understands me. I understand him. He’s been doing a good job of everything. As a player, you gotta expect that you’re not going to get everything that you want.
“At the end of the day, he’s still the coach and the D-coordinator. So just gotta work hand in hand, John’s been doing a good job, and man, we’re just getting ready for this weekend and prepare for a really good game.”
That doesn’t sound like an overly happy player and one who would have probably preferred to be traded.
“I think what’s most important to me, honestly, is I’m still here,” he said. “They wanted me here, Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie wanted me here, this organization wanted me here, I wanted to be here. Like I said, forever Philly. I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m happy to be here.”
He may no longer be the foundation piece he was since being drafted in the first round back in 2012, the 12th player taken overall, the player who was a member of the 2010’s NFL All-Decade Team who has more sacks in Eagles history (55.5) than any other defensive tackle and is fifth on the organization’s all-time sack list behind Reggie White, Trent Cole, Clyde Simmons, and Graham.
Cox doesn’t think so, though, even as rookie DT Milton Williams had a statement game last week against the Lions.
“Absolutely,” Cox responded when asked if he still felt like a foundation piece. “Obviously, they wanted me to be here. Again, I’m happy to be here. I’m ready to move on from all the noise that went on. I’m still in green. I still got the Eagles on my helmet. So, if y’all want to talk about the Chargers, let’s close that door and move on.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.