EAGLES NATION lore holds that Jeffrey Lurie is as allergic to kelly green as Andy Reid is to running the football.
So it was something of a revelation to see, yesterday in an airless conference room in Penn's Weightman Hall, after the event was forced indoors by the weather, Lurie beaming as Stewart Bradley, Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson modeled the new/old kelly green-and-white uniforms the Eagles will wear in their Sept. 12 season opener against the Packers. That is the team the Birds defeated for their last NFL championship, in 1960. The unis will be part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of that title.
Eventually, the news conference moved outside to Franklin Field, site of the historic victory, the current players flanked by kelly green-blazered alums from the '60 team, Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald, Maxie Baughan, Pete Retzlaff, Dick Lucas and Riley Gunnels. Thought was given to playing the "throwback" game in the old stadium, but practical considerations such as parking and bathroom facilities intervened.
Yesterday, Lurie, the Eagles chairman, said he was not kelly green-intolerant, even though he changed the primary color to midnight green in 1996, 2 years after he bought the team.
"Oh, no no, no, no," he said. "Not at all. In fact, I was so glad that the Green Bay game was the first one here, because we were always going to do it for the Green Bay game. To kick off the whole season with kelly green, that was a big plus."
Lurie said he was just thinking ahead when he brought out those yellow-and-blue throwback unis to celebrate the franchise's 75th anniversary. The Eagles wore them once, for a Sept. 23, 2007, home game against Detroit, a 56-21 Eagles victory.
"I went with the blue and the yellow, because I already knew this [celebration] was going to be kelly green," he said. "I never said that, because I wanted all the attention to be on that anniversary . . . the blue and the yellow, we played great that day! What can I say."
Lurie joked about the team playing great, because those uniforms were not a big hit with players or fans and have never resurfaced. NFL rules allow a team to wear an alternate uniform twice a year, plus once in the playoffs; the kelly green might have a longer shelf life.
"We've got all the options," said Lurie, who also outfitted the Eagles in black jerseys before finally finding an occasion suited for the jerseys that built the franchise.
Some observers might think emphasizing 1960, as the Eagles will do this season, unfortunately highlights the fact that the team has failed to win the title since then. Lurie said there could hardly be more title pressure, regardless.
"It's all self-inflicted; we think about it every day," he said. "It's already there, and you want that . . . You want to create the best possible team every year that you can."
That seemed a natural segue into this year's Eagles, and the changes that have rocked the franchise in the offseason, headlined by the trading of Donovan McNabb. Lurie hasn't spoken publicly about all that, and he declined to do so yesterday.
"I've got to focus on this, not the team going forward," Lurie said. He said such questions will have to wait for his annual state-of-the-team address in early August during training camp at Lehigh. "I just don't want to take away from this," he said. "It's once every - it's such a long period of time."
Lurie said he knows he owes his sold-out stadium and his soaring franchise value to the players who wore the classic uniforms.
"We didn't create the passion," Lurie said. "We've had very good teams, but the passion and the knowledge of the sport and the pride that Philadelphia takes in their football team, it started with these guys."
Retzlaff, the five-time Pro Bowl tight end who later was a Birds general manager, said of Eagles fans yesterday: "They're very demanding . . . even when they don't know what they're talking about. But they're very loyal."
Retzlaff said he never picked up a check in a restaurant or bar the year after the 1960 championship.
He later said he sees a lot of himself in Celek, the way the current tight end runs patterns, the instinctive moves he makes to get open. More obvious similarities were apparent - Bradley wore a virtual copy of Baughan's old No. 55 Eagles uniform.
"They look bigger than us," Baughan said.
Baughan's wife, Diane, related that Bradley told her he hoped to do Maxie's number proud. She said she told him he'd have to match Maxie's nine career Pro Bowls (five with the Eagles).
The current players all said they really liked the retro look.
Lurie said the 3-day opening weekend celebration of the title is something he wants to do in part because "the sport has become so gigantic today, we forget that these were not celebrated and exalted the way anything is today." *