Battling ALS, Kevin Turner Stays Positive, Agrees With Rule Changes

Battling ALS, Kevin Turner Stays Positive, Agrees With Rule Changes

Back in 2010, we learned former Eagles fullback Kevin Turner had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.'s Lisa Horne caught up with Turner at his home in Alabama, where he admits his body's deterioration has been frustrating, though he remains surprisingly upbeat.

The story paints a uneasy portrait of a 42-year-old man who was once a world-class athlete, but now needs help with some everyday tasks. However, it's not without its revelations. Turner discusses the possibility he has CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease that is caused by repeated trauma to the brain over a long period of time -- and that it could even be the root cause of his ALS symptoms.

Turner was a punishing blocker and ball carrier for eight seasons in the NFL, five of those with Philadelphia, but he defends the league's recent rule changes aimed at protecting players from serious, long-term injuries. The new kickoff and defenseless receiver rules may irritate some fans, and coaches may not appreciate new rules limiting contact during practice, but Turner insists these changes are for the best.

"There's no way to go through practice and halfway do it playing fullback when you're blocking at full speed," Turner sayd.

Turner realizes a lot of football fans aren't happy with some rules designed to safeguard the players.

"It's nothing like flag football," Turner said. "They don't get it. I would think they would want to watch their favorite players or teams for years to come. You can hit someone who isn't looking and practically decapitate them. It's entertainment to them.

"There are big-time collisions. Let's not take a step back to the Roman era where we're putting football players up there with gladiators. It's a game. It's entertainment. It's a dream of theirs, like it was of mine, but it's not worth their living that last 20 years of their lives with dementia, Alzheimer's or ALS."

It's hard to argue with his stance. As awareness of the lasting impacts of these collisions increases, we've seen far too many examples of athletes whose quality of life became sub-standard much sooner than it has any right to be. The preeminent example in Philadelphia is former Eagles safety Andre Waters, who killed himself in 2006 -- apparently while suffering from CTE.

Thankfully, Turner doesn't sound like a man who will be taking his own life. The silver lining is he manages to remain positive.

"(I'm) grateful for the Alabama fans that have supported me throughout this ordeal — they've just been incredible to me," Turner says. "I feel blessed. I'm able to walk, talk and breathe."

Go read the story and catch up with a classic Eagles fullback.

>> ALS or victim of violent sport? [FOX Sports]
>> Did Andre Waters Die for Our Entertainment? [T7L]

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.