If you ask Jalen Reagor, Monday night's game against the Eagles won't be anything out of the ordinary. After all, he's played plenty of games at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field since the Eagles drafted him the first round two years ago. He's familiar with the atmosphere.
"My emotions aren't really up, because it's a normal environment for me, not hostile," Reagor said on Thursday. "I've been there."
But realistically, this won't just be another game for Reagor. Two weeks ago, the Eagles traded him to the Vikings for a couple late-round draft picks. Now he's going back to the place where he had hoped to become a star. After two disappointing seasons, he'll be on the other sideline — across from guys like Miles Sanders, Devonta Smith, and Quez Watkins, who he says are his best friends — hoping to contribute to a win over his former team.
When asked if there's a part of him that wants to get revenge on the Eagles, Reagor didn't deny that it's crossed his mind.
"Of course," he said "Why not? But I'm not going to go into the game pressing. Just going to let the game come to me, whatever plays I make, make the best of them."
Philly fans are notoriously tough. Every first-round pick enters the league facing expectations and pressure, and the local fans soured on Reagor as he struggled with drops and failed to make a major impact during his first two NFL seasons. The TCU product had just 64 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns during his time with the Eagles. Reagor was also hurt by something that was out of his control: Justin Jefferson, now his teammate, being drafted one spot behind him and almost immediately becoming one of the best receivers in the league.
Reagor isn't worried about how he'll be greeted on Monday night by the fans in green.
“Who knows? It could be good, bad, indifferent," he said. "Those things I really don’t worry about because it’s out of my control."
One thing's for sure: Reagor has enjoyed the change of scenery so far. It's been a hectic couple weeks as he's tried to learn the Vikings' playbook and get comfortable in the offense on the fly, but he's made quick connections with the people around him.
"I just like being here," he said. "I like the culture, I like the players, the people around me, people in the building."
That includes a wide receiver room that Reagor described as close-knit and playful. He's known his new position coach, Keenan McCardell, since McCardell was coaching at Maryland and tried to recruit him out of high school. In Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, Reagor is around three receivers who get after it on the practice field and in meetings but know how to have fun when they're not working.
Reagor, the Vikings' punt returner and No. 4 wide receiver, had a fairly minor role in his first game in Minnesota. He didn't play any snaps on offense and only had the opportunity to return one of the Packers' four punts, breaking a tackle to gain seven yards.
He hopes to eventually carve out a role on offense but is leaving that entirely up to the coaching staff. Reagor is controlling what he can control, which means diving into the playbook and making sure he's ready to fill any role if he's called upon to play, especially if one of the top three receivers has to come out of the game.
So far, he's made a good impression on his new teammates in practice.
"You can see the ability, you can see why he would've been drafted so high because the athleticism and just the ability to play position is all there," Kirk Cousins said. "We've thrown a lot at him in a short amount of time for him to pick up offensively. It took us the entire OTAs, much of training camp to get to a place where we're comfortable with it, and he's gotta learn it in a matter of days or a couple weeks. So it's a big ask of him. But very excited about his ability and what he can bring to our special teams unit and also our offense because of the talent that's there."
A homecoming for Jordan Hicks, too
It's been a little over two weeks since Reagor was an Eagle. For Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks, it's been three and a half years.
After a standout career at Texas, Hicks was drafted by Philadelphia in the third round in 2015. He spent the first four years of his professional career there, starting 40 of the 43 regular season games he appeared in. In his second season, Hicks led all NFL linebackers with five interceptions. The following year, he was on injured reserve as he watched his teammates make a run through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
Hicks signed with the Cardinals in 2019 and spent three seasons in Arizona, starting all 49 games and recording more tackles than all but four players in the league during that span. This spring, he inked a two-year deal with the Vikings, replacing Anthony Barr in the starting lineup.
When the team practiced at U.S. Bank Stadium in August, all of the memories of being there for that Super Bowl victory came rushing back to Hicks.
"I was able to take some time and kind of slow down, remember all that stuff," Hicks said. "Every time I think back it's like a book, reopening the pages."
This will be Hicks' first time returning to Philadelphia since he left three years ago. The Cardinals played the Eagles once during his tenure in Arizona, but the game was in Glendale.
"I have a lot of good memories out there, a lot of people I still know on that team," he said. "Definitely excited. Any time you play a former team or play back in your hometown, it means a little bit more."
Hicks led the Vikings with 14 tackles and a strip sack in their win over the Packers, drawing praise from Kevin O'Connell. He'll be counted on to be a big part of their plan to slow down Jalen Hurts and the Eagles' dangerous rushing attack. Hicks is looking forward to the challenge of taking on a good team in what should be a raucous primetime environment.
"I'd imagine it'll be pretty hostile, which is exciting," he said. "Any time that juice is out there, it does nothing but amp you up. I'm excited. Like I said, it'll be my first time going back on this side of it."
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