Brandon Graham came here as a first-round draft choice from Michigan in 2010. He stood behind a lectern in theNovaCare Complex auditorium the next day for a news conference, as is customary for the top pick.
On Wednesday, Graham stood behind the lectern again, for the first time since the draft, he said.
In addition to Nick Foles, Graham and Zach Ertz were chosen to do interviews in the auditorium, to lessen the frenzy in the locker room, with way more media members present than usual. The George Halas Trophy sparkled on a table near the lectern, which also was adorned with Eagles and Vikings helmets. This sort of thing used to be common around here, but it hadn’t happened since Graham arrived. Saturday’s victory over the Falcons was his first playoff win. The Eagles last hosted the conference title game in 2005, the third year in a row they had done so.
Graham said he is taking time to relish the moment, because “you never know when you’re going to get back.”
“I’m feeling like it’s going to be a physical game, it’s going to come down to who can take care of the ball,” Graham said. “Obviously, we’ve got to go out there on defense and get some takeaways. We’ve got to put our offense in a good position.”
Asked what he thinks Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field will be like, Graham said: “I can only imagine. Last week exceeded my expectations … We’re going to bring the energy and I know the fans are going to bring the energy. To have a championship game here, for all the marbles, to go to the Super Bowl? I know it’s going to be electric.”
Zimmer touts Shurmur
New York-area reporters have made their way to NovaCare this week for the NFC championship game buildup, partly because the Giants are expected to hire Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as their head coach after the Vikings are done, and driving down the New Jersey Turnpike is cheaper than flying to Minnesota.
Shurmur has spent much of his coaching life here, and it will be odd to see him in charge of an Eagles divisional rival. Shurmur got his NFL start as Andy Reid’s tight ends coach in 1999, moved up to quarterbacks coach in 2002. He left after the 2008 season, when Steve Spagnuolo hired him to be offensive coordinator in St. Louis. In 2011, he became the Browns’ head coach, with the same result as everyone else who takes that job; in 2013, he was an offensive coordinator again, back here under Chip Kelly. When Kelly was fired, Shurmur ended up as a tight ends coach again, in Minnesota, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned in the middle of the 2016 season and Shurmur has been running Mike Zimmer’s attack ever since.
“He’s done an outstanding job this year and I do believe he has earned the right” to be a head coach again, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday on a conference call. “If he gets the opportunity, I think he will be successful.”
Adam Thielen, Minnesota’s excellent wide receiver, sat out practice Wednesday with a back injury, the Vikings said. Safety Andrew Sendejo, who has a concussion, was listed as limited.
For the Eagles, middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) sat out. Ellerbe said he anticipates being able to play.
Doug goes fourth
Going for it on fourth down is something fans think of when they think of Doug Pederson. The Eagles went for it 26 times this season, second in the league to Green Bay, succeeding an NFL-high 17 times.
Pederson was asked Wednesday what that meant to the Eagles’ success.
“It means that your offense is staying on the field, and a lot of those were quarterback sneaks when Carson [Wentz] was healthy and playing, and we got him those third- or fourth-and-one situations where we were able to capitalize,” Pederson said. “Then there were just times when it’s a little bit longer situation and we’ve executed and done a nice job.
“I just think that if you’re not staying aggressive, you’re not giving yourselves a chance to win the game. So throughout the year, I wanted to make sure that I was doing that and doing it right by the team.”