Listening to Sean McDermott Wednesday, it was obvious that Jim Johnson's successor is one of the people most deeply affected by the Tuesday death of the Eagles' beloved defensive coordinator.
"There's nothing I would want more than for Jim to be able to call one more game right now," said McDermott, recalling the aftermath of the Eagles' loss to the Cardinals in last January's NFC Championship Game.
'It's an honor to follow Jim Johnson, in any way, shape or form," McDermott said. He said he told Johnson's widow, Vicky, that the Eagles' defense will "try and honor Jim and the Johnson family with the way we play this year."
McDermott agreed with a questioner who posited that Johnson's proteges -- coaches such as Steve Spagnuolo, now head coach of Rams, Ron Rivera, defensive coordinator of the Chargers, Leslie Frazier, defensive coordinator of the Vikings, and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, along with McDermott -- were like Johnson's sons.
"Last night, we got the news right before we had meetings. By the time I got out of meetings, I had messages from all those brothers that we had, if you will," McDermott said. "John Harbaugh, Steve Spagnuolo ... everyone was checking on everyone else, to make sure everyone was doing OK. That's the way Jim would have wanted it."
On an appropriately dark and cloudy morning at Lehigh, a black circle with the initials "JJ" had been painted onto a small hill adjoining the practice fields. This would seem to be the design for the patch the Eagles are expected to wear on their uniforms this season.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called Johnson "a great influence on myself, my family, and my children." He extolled Johnson as a man of "great class, great character."
Eagles veterans are scheduled to report this afternoon, for a 7 p.m. team meeting. First-round draft pick Jeremy Maclin remains unsigned, with full-squad, contact workouts beginning Friday.