Eagles players don’t fly first-class on the team’s chartered flights. If anyone could get Doug Pederson to upgrade the plane, the players had recently decided, it was Malcolm Jenkins, the locker room’s unofficial spokesman.
When the playoff-bound Eagles wanted to wear pads in practice again, it was Jenkins who approached Pederson. When some of the players felt slighted by the Eagles coach’s comments following last season’s loss at the Bengals, it was Jenkins who spoke up. When the locker room wants this, that or the other thing, the safety is typically the messenger.
And he often gets his way.
“I’m not afraid to speak on things, so I feel if there’s something the locker room wants, I’m not necessarily afraid to go up to Howie [Roseman] or Doug and express that,” Jenkins said. “For some guys, that makes them uncomfortable and that also depends on where you are from a security standpoint.
“But I don’t always get what I want. I get told no all the time.”
For example, Jenkins’ request on first-class was rejected.
“The last two years have been the first time I hadn’t been in first class since I’ve been in the league,” Jenkins said with a chuckle. Even previous Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who wouldn’t let his players wear any socks except white ones at practice, had a plane large enough so that every player could sit in first class.
“That’s a change,” Jenkins said, “that I haven’t been able to fix yet.”
Life philosophy: ‘One play at a time’
Don’t bet against it. When Jenkins talks, people generally listen, and he often effects change. In late November, Jenkins and the NFL Players Coalition got the league to fund $90 million worth of programs that support the players’ community endeavors. Soon after, he announced that he would no longer raise his right fist during the national anthem.
While his political and social activism has drawn the most media attention, Jenkins’ work in the community with his foundation, which has helped provide resources and opportunities for underserved youth, was recently recognized when the Eagles nominated him for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
It’s been a busy year for the 30-year-old. He traveled to Harrisburg to push for criminal justice reform; he opened a custom suit store in Washington Square; and on Tuesday, Jenkins and his wife, Morrissa, welcomed their second daughter, Selah Nola.
“One play at a time. Just like football, you take it in life,” Jenkins said Thursday, when asked how he was able to juggle a new baby and preparations for the NFC championship game Sunday against the Vikings. “Spent two nights at the hospital. But my family’s home now, so it’s been a good week for me. Hopefully it ends well, too.”
On the field, the safety had another outstanding season and was voted to his second Pro Bowl. Jenkins has always been one of the Eagles’ leaders, vocally and by example, but he has increasingly become even more outspoken. He’ll break the team down before kickoff and follow Pederson in the postgame locker room.
After Carson Wentz suffered his knee injury against the Rams last month, it was Jenkins who addressed the team and the elephant in the visitors’ locker room at the Coliseum.
“With Carson being out of this … that … [stinks],” Jenkins said in a bleeped-out video released by the team. “But dig this: We … set this up for whoever … is in this room, this is who we riding with man. We said it: ‘We all we got, we all we need.”
Last season, Pederson would typically call on one of the team leaders to talk after he did.
“This year, I think the first week he called on me and then the next week he called on me,” Jenkins said. “Then, after a while, it was like we’re very superstitious football players. So when you’re winning, you don’t change anything, and I end up kind of just being that guy.
“Obviously, it’s a role that I embrace.”
Speaking from the heart
Jenkins said that he doesn’t prepare his speeches, but that he does take time to reflect before talking and that he typically reminds his teammates to keep their performances, good or bad, in perspective. He said that when he’s addressing the team, he also is talking to himself.
Last year, it was, “We all we got,” but Jenkins added the “We all we need” before this season. The mantra has become a team rallying cry, especially after Wentz’s injury and the Eagles’ underdog status throughout the playoffs.
“He’s got a lot of profound messages, as you’ve seen,” Pederson said. “He speaks from the heart, and he speaks truth.”
While Jenkins has downplayed talk of a political career, some teammates say they can see it in his future. But unlike so many lawmakers, he often gets things done. Jenkins’ secret, according to safety Jaylen Watkins, is that he has a rebel streak.
“He’s got a little rebellion in him, but constructive rebellion,” Watkins said. “We tell him something that we don’t like, we know he’ll go and say something. I think he naturally has that. A lot of guys are scared to say stuff and speak up.”
Receiver Torrey Smith equated Jenkins’ spokesman role to that of a big brother speaking for the other siblings when bargaining with parents. Guard Brandon Brooks said front men also need a little extra ego because, while you may reap some of the glory when things are going well, you must be prepared for the backlash when they aren’t.
“The biggest thing, for me personally, is he leads by example, man. I can’t tell you how many guys over my career talk a good game and go out there and [screw] up and do some stupid [stuff]. And you’re kind of looking at them …,” Brooks said, raising an eyebrow..
“But Malcolm does everything right on and off the field.”
The Eagles have many captains, aside from the ones who wear the “C” on their jerseys. The team hasn’t had one definitive leader, really, since Brian Dawkins. But Wentz, Jason Peters, Brandon Graham, Brent Celek, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Jordan Hicks, and Chris Maragos have all filled leadership roles.
But when the Eagles want something – like first-class seating — they go to their closer.
“If Malcolm pulls that one off,” Watkins said, “then dudes will really be like, ‘He’s the GOAT in this locker room.’”
A first-class flight to the Super Bowl would be nice.
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