Last Call for Juqua Parker

Last Call for Juqua Parker

Of all the active players who could be wearing midnight green into battle for the final time on Sunday, defensive end Juqua Parker stands out the most. Believe it or not, Parker has been with Philadelphia since 2005, a tenure that spans seven seasons. Only Jamaal Jackson has played for the Eagles longer.
Parker becomes a free agent in March though. He'll turn 34 in May, and with Pro Bowlers at both ends of the defensive line, plus several talented youngsters champing at the bit, Parker has become expendable. The chances of him returning are essentially non-existent.
As a fan, the natural inclination might be to shrug your shoulders. Parker never became a star. He didn't author any especially memorable plays in franchise history. He didn't win a championship here. There is nothing really special about him at all.
While those things are all true, Parker was a serviceable player who built a surprisingly nice career here, albeit one that will go widely overlooked.
Parker began his career with the Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State in 2001. Despite spending four seasons there, he never started a game. Four sacks in '03 were then a personal best for Parker, but he came away empty-handed the following season. His contract was up, as was his time in Tennessee.
Parker would not wind up joining the Eagles until training camp was already under way in the summer of '05, but still managed to make the 53-man roster. For the second season in a row, he failed to record a sack, but the front office brought him back on another one-year deal. What exactly they saw in this Juqua Thomas -- his given name which he later changed at his deceased father's request -- was no doubt a mystery to most observers.
Whatever it was, it finally clicked.
Parker made the most of his limited opportunities during the '06 season, breaking out with six sacks -- more than he totaled through the first five years of his career. The Eagles rewarded Parker with a five-year extension, and when Jevon Kearse wasn't cutting it in '07, Parker ultimately took his place in the starting lineup, where he remained for the majority of the next three seasons.
In '08, he was honored as the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week against the 49ers, when he sealed the deal with a 55-yard touchdown return on a fourth quarter interception in a 40-26 win. In '09, he went on to set a career high in sacks with eight, which is not a tally to sneeze at. This season, he's returned two fumbles for touchdowns.
In all, Parker has played in 104 regular season games for the Eagles -- only Mike Patterson has appeared in more among current Eagles -- and started 46. Over that time, Juqua has 31.5 sacks, tied with Mike Mamula(!) for 13th in franchise history. With two sacks on Sunday, he could move in to the top 10.
But that's not likely to happen, not with Jason Babin shooting for the team's single-season record, and reliable Trent Cole on the other end. Parker's playing time diminished drastically this season, his sack total dipping to a meager one and a half as a result. With Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, and Darryl Tapp lobbying to see more action, there simply isn't room for all of them.
Regardless, it's not so difficult to understand what Andy Reid and Jim Johnson saw in Juqua Parker after all. He is and always was a hard worker who made few waves off the field. He persevered, and because he never gave up, he actually carved out a lengthy NFL career for himself.
A lot of fans have lamented there aren't any likable players on the Eagles, or very few at least. Sure, it's easy to forget about role players like Parker, but in many ways, he is the epitome of a true Philadelphian's athlete.
A resilient overachiever.

Ken Tribbett's 1st MLS goal helps Union salvage draw vs. Orlando City

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Ken Tribbett's 1st MLS goal helps Union salvage draw vs. Orlando City

BOX SCORE

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ken Tribbett scored his first career MLS goal in the 75th minute and the Union tied Orlando City 2-2 on Wednesday night.

Tranquillo Barnetta started the scoring in the 52nd minute on the Union's first shot on goal. Chris Pontius outjumped his defender to win a diagonal cross and headed it to the back post for an unmarked Barnetta.

Then the game opened up with three goals in a 7-minute span.

Kevin Molino tied it in the 68th -- one minute after entering as a substitute. Cyle Larin collided with two defenders and the goalkeeper while battling for a long ball and Molino knocked the loose ball into an empty net.

Three minutes later, Larin gave Orlando City a lead on a questionable goal. Kaka played a ball across goal, Larin chested it off the goalkeeper and the Union's Fabinho appeared to clear it off the line.

Tribbett evened it for the Union (5-3-4) when goalkeeper Joe Bendik dove to get a touch on a cross and Tribbett slotted home the rebound.

David Mateos was given a straight red card for Orlando (3-3-6) in the 93rd minute for a studs-up tackle just outside of the box. But Barnetta's free kick sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

Watch: Nerlens Noel dominates the American Ninja Warrior wall

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Watch: Nerlens Noel dominates the American Ninja Warrior wall

The American Ninja Warrior television show is hosting a regional competition on May 26th and 27th at the Richmond Power Plant in Philadelphia.

A Comcast SportsNet camera crew was there on Wednesday to tape a segment for a show next week when they recognized a familiar face in the crowd.

Sixers big man Nerlens Noel was there supporting a friend practicing on the course. Noel also gave the wall a go and it proved no match for his length.

Contestants will compete on Thursday and Friday in Philly with a chance of qualifying for the finals to be held in Las Vegas.

If you think you've got what it takes, head on over and try to be a walk on talent. You probably won't do any better than Nerlens though.

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”