Must See TV - Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life

Must See TV - Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life

Tonight at 10PM the NFL Network will air “Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life." Tonight at 10PM you should be in front of your television watching “Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life."

As an Eagles fan that grew up during the Buddy Ryan era, both Reggie and Jerome were larger than life. They combined to form the most devastating defensive end/defensive tackle combination I’ve ever seen.

The front four of White, Brown, Mike Pitts, and Clyde Simmons was relentless. I can still picture the four of them -- #92, #99, #74, and #96 -- down in their stance ready to unleash hell on the opposing offensive line and quarterback. It was plain to see though, that Reggie and Jerome were the most talented of the four.

The two were an unlikely pair. Reggie was a god-fearing man of faith who spoke in a distinctive raspy voice. His tone always measured, befitting his status as an ordained minister. Jerome was a loud anti-authoritarian who would tell you he was going to kick your ass, proceed to kick your ass, and then remind you how thoroughly your ass had just been kicked.

Reggie arrived in Philly in 1985, fresh off a stint with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL. He recorded 31 sacks over his first two seasons in Philly. Two years later, Jerome Brown arrived as a first round pick out of Miami. It was no coincidence that Reggie recorded the highest single season sack total of his career, 21 in just 13 games, during Jerome’s rookie year.

Opposing offenses had to pick their poison. They could double-team Reggie with a tackle and guard, and leave Jerome Brown to work against the center, or they could leave their tackle on an island against Reggie and slide their protection inside to deal with Jerome. Either way, the quarterback was going to get hit.

Buddy Ryan’s defense was predicated on pressure and hitting. Reggie and Jerome were ideally suited to carry out those two tasks. Looking back now, I think I was captivated by the degree and manner in which that defense destroyed people. To put it simply, I was in awe of how badass they were.
 
I was too young to remember the Broad Street Bullies wreaking havoc on the NHL. The Buddy Ryan Eagles were my Broad Street Bullies. It was the first time I’d ever rooted for the gang of pillaging marauders to win. They’d punch you in the mouth, strip the football, lateral it a few times, and then dance in the end zone while you were wiping the blood off your face. It was exhilarating.

That attitude came from Jerome Brown. Reggie was the superstar, but J.B. was the heart and soul. Mix those two All-Pro talents with the athleticism of Byron Evans, the perpetual scowl and attitude of Seth Joyner (aka Uncle Seth),  the cover ability of Eric Allen, the range of Wes Hopkins, and the nastiness of Andre Waters and you had one of the all-time greatest, hardest hitting, shit talking defenses in NFL history.

Ultimately, Buddy Ryan was unable to win a playoff game as the Eagles head coach. He was replaced by Rich Kotite prior to the 1991 season. The offense was as mismanaged as ever, but Bud Carson stepped into the defensive coordinator position and fine-tuned the defense.

Reggie and Jerome combined for 24 sacks that season, as the Birds became just the fifth team in NFL history to finish #1 in overall defense, #1 against the run, and #1 against the pass. They were set up for years of future success.

That all changed on June 25, 1992 when Jerome Brown was killed in a single car crash in his hometown of Brooksville, Florida. I remember being on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ when I heard the news. I felt the same pit in my stomach as I did when I learned Pelle Lindbergh died. Athletes weren’t supposed to die like that.

The entire 1992 season was a tribute to Jerome Brown. The Eagles wore #99 J.B. patches on their jerseys. Seth Joyner shaved #99 into the back of his flat-top fade. For one of the few times his tenure as owner of the Eagles Norman Braman actually did the right thing and retired Jerome’s #99 prior to the home opener. The Eagles would break their pregame huddle with “1, 2, 3, J.B.!” The rallying cry for the season became “Bring it home for Jerome."

They managed to go 11-5 and actually win a playoff game before falling to Dallas in the Divisional Playoffs. The loss to Dallas marked the final time Reggie White wore an Eagles uniform.

1993 was the first year of NFL Free Agency. Norman Braman wanted no parts of spending any money and, bit by bit, the Eagles were dismantled. Reggie White signed with Green Bay, apparently never having received an offer from the Eagles.

I suppose it was somewhat fitting that Reggie left Philadelphia just one year removed from Jerome Brown’s death. He mourned and honored his friend here, in the city where they meet, before moving on and ultimately winning a Super Bowl with the Packers.

Like Jerome Brown, Reggie White died way too young. White, who was just 43 years old, passed away in 2004.

For Philadelphia fans the two men will always be linked. They are fondly remembered for ushering in an era of dominating defensive football.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”