CHICAGO - It was like most nine-car pileups when viewed in slow motion. A dozen things had to happen along the way for the result to end up being what it was, in this case a 24-20 Eagles victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
This was just one of the things: Sheldon Brown.
He has a slightly torn hamstring, but he played. He had to convince team trainer Rick Burkholder and general manager Tom Heckert that he was ready with a pretty strenuous pregame workout on the field, but he played. It was supposed to be part-time, helping where he could - and then he made the injury worse chasing down the Bears' Khalil Bell on a 72-yard run in the second quarter. Suddenly, part-time was going to become less than that.
But then Asante Samuel suffered a stinger that will require an MRI today, just to make sure - all of which left the Eagles with a dilemma and Brown with a decision.
"He was in the game, he started the game," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "And then, on one of the long runs, he kind of tweaked it again. He came out and we were going to utilize him in the nickel or where we needed to utilize him. Then Asante came out and he just dashed out there and went for it.
"Listen, we all know he's a tough guy. He told me all week he was going to be ready to go. I can't tell you that I believed it. I made sure our guys took him out before the game and worked the heck out of him. I told him that. I said, 'Listen, if you can't function there, then we can't let you go.' "
One line will stand out there, if this ends up being an interesting Eagles season in the end. One line:
"He just dashed out there . . .
Standing at his locker after the game had ended, after receiving more treatment, you just knew what he was going to say, because he is Sheldon Brown, and because he has been here a long time, and because his legacy means more to him even than the contract problem that his muddied the last few months. His legacy means a lot more than that.
Brown can see the continuum. He knows he is a link in a long chain - Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Brian Dawkins, others, him. When the late Jim Johnson came to town with Reid and built this into a championship-level defense, this historical concatenation became real. It is something Brown takes very seriously.
This was one of the nights he will remember, because of that. And so, he said, "For me, I think about the guys that taught me how to play the game, like Troy and Bobby and Dawk. That's just things that they would have done. I know it makes them proud and, for me, it's to pass down the torch and show guys how the guys before me did it. That history and that warriorlike mentality that Jim developed here . . . It's been here, it's still here, and it won't ever go away."
A cynic would hear a lot of talk, but there is truth there beneath the words. Brown has always believed that. He has always said that leaders lead by example. He has always said that the reason he knows how to act during difficult times in a season is because he saw players older than him act in those same circumstances, and he mimics them.
Now, he has done this. Now he has played in a game in which he had no business playing - not playing great but playing tougher than anyone had a right to expect, giving as much as he got. "A warrior," is what defensive coordinator Sean McDermott called him after the game, and no one would argue.
"I figured I would split time with Dimitri [Patterson]," Brown said. "He would keep me a little fresh and keep my hamstring loose. But once Asante went down, I just had to take a mentality that I can't leave the football game. I had to fight through it.
"It's tough. The field conditions - a terrible field, and that didn't help the situation. I don't know. God is good to me."
He stopped, talked some more.
"I'm a believer in the reason why we do well later in the year is because training camp is tough," he said. "I do believe in that. I think the plan is in place. I know how this football team responds in the later part of the season and I think it's for a reason."
He is one of the reasons. His example is one of the reasons. He knows that what he did matters beyond one game.
"It definitely will push people to play through some things," Brown said. "Look: I can't talk about doing the right things if I don't do it myself. So the best way to lead is by example. That's how the guys taught me."
And now that it's over, how does he feel?
"I'm walking, so I guess I feel pretty good," Sheldon Brown said.
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