For eight seasons, whenever Sheldon Brown spoke, everyone listened.
Now members of the Cleveland media will be rushing to Brown's locker after games and practices to get an honest view of what's going on with the team and the franchise.
But Brown took time last week to close the book on his career in Philadelphia during a pair of WIP radio interviews, and as always, he had some interesting things to say.
Most notable was Brown referencing some of his former teammates failing to buy in to what the coaching staff was selling.
"I just think, we as a defense in Philadelphia, you just have to believe in what coach [Sean] McDermott preaches and follow the plan," Brown told Howard Eskin and Ike Reese. "You know, sometimes I look back at last year, the season, I feel that we had some players that really was questioning some of the things that were being done. And [we] never had that situation since I've been there. And first and foremost, you have to believe in the system, believe in the plan, or you lose before you even go out there. And if the guys can remember to do that, stick together, they'll be fine."
So, who wasn't buying into McDermott's message? Brown might have been speaking in generalizations, or he might have been talking about one or two specific players.
I went back to look at some stories, columns and blog posts from during the season, and the name that seems most logical is Asante Samuel.
The Daily News' Paul Domowitch wrote about Samuel's unwillingness to play press coverage in a column after the Eagles' two losses to the Cowboys:
"We just didn't do a good enough job on the screens," McDermott said. "When you don't press, that's what happens. You leave too much room in between you and the next blocker and they get a hat on a hat and get up the field and that's when you have problems."
Asked why Samuel didn't press on [Miles] Austin's touchdown, McDermott said, "It was designed to be pressed."
And here's what I wrote about Samuel in Man Up after the loss to the Saints:
He was matched up one-on-one with Devery Henderson on a 3rd-and-12 in the second quarter and was nowhere near the receiver, who picked up 17 yards. Samuel also gave a big cushion to Colston on a 13-yard gain in the third quarter. If you re-watch the game, you'll notice that Samuel stayed in for the next play but then was replaced by Ellis Hobbs for the remainder of the series. He didn't appear to be injured. This was before he suffered the stinger. Was this Sean McDermott's way of sending a message to Samuel to not give up so much ground?
More from Brown:
"Sometimes when guys come from other places, and you feel as if some guys in house that have been working hard feel as they're not appreciated, then obviously in any workplace, it's gonna become a problem."
Samuel, of course, signed a six-year, $57M deal in 2008, after arriving from New England.
Brown clearly felt that with the Eagles cutting ties with guys he had been around for so long - Lito Sheppard, Brian Dawkins, etc. - it was time for him to move on as well.
"It was just one of those situations where the guys I that had been there with throughout the years were no longer there, and then some things happened from a locker room standpoint, chemistry-wise, and it was just time for change for myself and my family," Brown told The Morning Show.
When asked what he meant by the locker room/chemistry comment, Brown said he'd rather not go into it.
* Brown did not sound bitter. He praised Andy Reid, McDermott and said he spoke with Howie Roseman. But he did say: "It's good to once in a awhile want to be wanted."
* For years, observers have speculated about the Eagles potentially moving Brown to safety. After the trade, Roseman said: "We talked about that, like we talk about all things, but Sheldon wants to play corner, he views himself as a cornerback, and that's kind of where that ended."
Not so, said Brown:
"The only thing that frustrated me about the whole deal was no one never once asked me to play safety. I'll clear that up because I read something that a gentlemen said that we talked to Sheldon about playing safety, and he still said he was a corner. That's not true. For me, I'm such a team guy. Wherever Cleveland wants me to play, I'm gonna play there. And wherever Philadelphia wanted me to play, I was gonna play there because those guys in the locker room depended on me."
* Maybe I'm the only one who would find this one interesting, but Brown talked about the Eagles' defensive representative at the weekly press conferences, and after games. For years, it was Brian Dawkins. Last year, it was going to be Stewart Bradley, but that changed when he went down with a season-ending injury in training camp. Then it became Quintin Mikell. So why wasn't Brown at the podium? "They came to me with that, and I said with the situation that I'm in right now, you guys probably don't want me to be that guy because I was gonna answer questions all year about my happiness, and I wasn't gonna deal with that."
Definitely would have provided for more entertainment.
* Brown called leadership "overrated" but it was pretty clear that he thought he had a different definition of the word than fans and the media. "The thing that sometimes the fans and everyone miss out on, is we had an opportunity to learn from some great guys," Brown said. "What I don't want people to fail to realize is that I didn't do this alone. Lito [Sheppard] didn't do it alone. [Brian] Westbrook. Westbrook had Duce [Staley]. I had Troy [Vincent] and Bobby [Taylor]. Lito had Troy and Bobby. Mike Lewis had Brian Dawkins. So there were veterans in place that had great qualities about them, and we understood that. And we fell in line and learned how to be pros, and I think that that's key."
A major issue for the Eagles going forward, which is more concerning on defense than offense.
* To that same point, Brown talked about how much the defense missed Dawkins last season. "I think it's just a locker room presence," he said. "It's great to have a guy like that in the locker room where a younger guy can come in and see how it's supposed to be done. ... I can go back to Troy. I learned from Troy and people like Dawk. They would show how to play through injury, how to tough it out, how to fight, sit down and talk to you as a young buck and tell you what it's gonna take for you to achieve the goals that they have achieved. That locker room presence is huge."
* When asked who the leaders could be next season, Brown pointed to Mikell on 'D' and Jason Avant on offense.
* His favorite memories were Jim Johnson meeting his family for the first time and the NFC championship game against Atlanta that sent the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
* Thanks to Lance over at Eagles Mix for pointing me towards the interviews.
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