Avant saw release coming, no ill will toward Birds


Avant saw release coming, no ill will toward Birds

Jason Avant saw the writing on the wall. Or, more accurately, saw the writing on the stat sheet.

As his role diminished last year, the Eagles’ popular veteran wide receiver gradually began to realize that 2013 would be his last season in Philly.

“You start seeing things when your role gets a little bit taken back and you don’t get as many opportunities as you had, as many plays that are called for you,” Avant said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview with Comcast SportsNet’s Derrick Gunn.

“Not necessarily when the quarterback is scrambling and you’re the last option. There were a lot of those this year.”

Avant, who has played more games at wide receiver than any Eagle over the last 35 years, was released by the Eagles on Tuesday after 116 games, 297 catches, 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The numbers don’t come close to defining Avant, an inspirational locker room leader, a fearless special teamer, a clutch big-play receiver and an athlete as unselfish and humble as any pro you’ll ever see (see story).

“I knew [being released] was likely, but you never know in those situations,” Avant said. “I was 99 percent sure but there was still that one percent chance.

“But at the same time, I really respect the Eagles for letting me know so soon, so I can be on the market before free agency. That’s beneficial to you rather than go into it with 100 other players.”

Only four wide receivers in franchise history played more games than Avant -- Harold Carmichael, Bobby Walston, Pete Retzlaff (who was also a tight end) and Charles Smith.

Avant is one of only 12 NFL wide receivers who finished 2013 with the same team he started 2006 with.

“People don’t realize, eight years in the National Football League, that’s like 20 years in someone else’s work,” Avant said. “I talk to kids now who say, ‘I remember you when I was a little kid!’ A little kid? Are you kidding me?”

Avant, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2006, made a name for himself as a clutch third-down receiver with a highlight-reel knack for remarkable one-handed catches.

This year, playing in Chip Kelly’s offense, he caught just 38 passes for 447 yards, both his lowest totals since 2008.

“I believe … if there weren’t contracts and there wasn’t a salary cap I’d still be here,” he said. “But when your [salary] numbers are going up and your production doesn’t look the same, there has to be some type of release to relinquish that pressure.”

Avant told Gunn that 2013 was the most frustrating year of his career.

“By far,” he said. “Not necessarily from a selfish standpoint of a numbers situation, just with knowing that I could be used different, that I could help the team.

“That’s one of those things with the new coaching staff -- which is a great staff, which is a great coach -- but every player doesn’t fit, and I felt like that square trying to fit into a triangle. I felt like that at times.

“Because I have a very unique way of getting open and doing certain things. As everybody knows, I’m not a blazer, but I’ve been able to get open consistently, and when you have a new coaching staff, everybody’s not accustomed to that. Coach [Andy] Reid wasn’t accustomed to that. I had to make him believe in me in order to do what I do.

“It was frustrating because you can’t play the way you want to play. Coach Kelly and Coach Bick (receivers coach Bob Bicknell), it’s a great staff. I just don’t fit what they do.”

Avant spoke several times during his 20-minute interview with Gunn about the fans and how pleasing them drove him and motivated him.

He spoke about the relationships he built during eight years with the Eagles, mentioning everybody from his coaches and teammates to the security and maintenance guys at the NovaCare Complex.

“That’s the hardest thing about it,” he said. “The relationships with the media members, my teammates and fans here, church family, all those people. Those are the things that I’ll miss.”

Avant, who turns 31 next month, believes he can still play and said he hopes to sign somewhere before the start of free agency Tuesday.

The Chiefs, coached by Reid, and the Jets, with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, are obvious candidates.

“I’ve been here eight years and sometimes it’s good for a fresh start,” he said. “I know I still can play.”

Asked about his legacy, Avant said it goes far beyond football, far behind all the circus third-down catches and key blocks in the running game that may have gone unnoticed by most fans.

It’s all about being a good person, a good role model, a good teammate.

“Would I love to make the Pro Bowl? Would I love to have catches and new contract? Yeah, you love those things,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, you want your significance to have more effect on what you did outside the field and the type of people that you affect day in and day out and what type of person you are,” he said.

“I want that to be my legacy. That should mean more than what you do on a football field, and that’s what I wanted to leave. …

“I just hope the fans would know that I respect them, and that I care for them, and that I thought about them when I was playing.

“Hopefully, I played this game, blocking, tackling, running -- as best as I could. That was my role for years and years and years. To assist someone else to be great. Hey, everybody has a role. Everybody can’t be Michael Jordan or DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. A team just doesn’t work like that.

“There has to be someone who concedes and says, ‘No, you go ahead, you do your thing. As long as we’re winning, I’ll stay back,’ and that was my role here. To stay back and do what was asked of me and catch a couple passes over the middle.

“Could I have done more? Probably. But I loved doing it because it was going to help the team, help the city, help the team win.”

Eagles Injury Update: Bennie Logan misses practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Bennie Logan misses practice again

For the second straight day this week, the Eagles practiced without starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan. 

Logan, who has been dealing with a groin strain he suffered against Washington, hasn't practiced since that game and didn't play against the Vikings. 

With just one more day left to practice this week before the game in Dallas on Sunday night, it seems increasingly likely that Beau Allen will get his second straight start in Logan's place. 

In addition to Logan, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (hamstring) also missed practice for the second straight day on Thurday. He and Logan are considered to be "week to week." 

After being limited on Wednesday, Mychal Kendricks (ribs) and Jordan Matthews (knee) were both full participants in Thursday's practice. So was Jason Peters (bicep). 

The only limited participant on Thursday was defensive tackle Taylor Hart (ankle), whom the Eagles just re-claimed this week from San Francisco. 

Matthews: Wentz-Prescott 'could potentially be like a Brady-Peyton rivalry'

Matthews: Wentz-Prescott 'could potentially be like a Brady-Peyton rivalry'

Carson Wentz shrugged it off: “I don’t put too much stock in that stuff.”

Dak Prescott shrugged it off. “I guess. Yeah. I don’t know.”

The reality is that what's going to happen Sunday has never happened before.

Wentz and Prescott on Sunday night will become the first rookie quarterbacks who’ve already won four games to face each other this early in a season.

Wentz is 4-2, Prescott is 5-1. They’re both 23, they both started the preseason as third-stringers, and they play in the same division.

If this doesn’t have the makings of a classic rivalry, then nothing does.

Even if neither wants to talk about it.

Prescott: “It could potentially be there. It could create something that could go over time. I’ve never gotten into comparing myself to anybody. Not another rookie. Not a great quarterback that comes along. I’m not really into comparing.”

Wentz: “It’s exciting and it’s cool to see him doing well. I don’t put too much stock in that stuff but obviously he’s a divisional rival so that very well could happen for a long time.”

But let’s be honest. This is as intriguing a matchup as you’ll see between rookie quarterbacks.

Both off to historic starts, both playing in the same division.

“I think it’s cool,” Jordan Matthews said. “Obviously, Peyton (Manning) and (Tom) Brady, that’s an extremely high honor to be mentioned with those guys but I mean obviously I speak highly of Carson, I know he can be named with those guys, all he needs is more years of playing. And I also have a high respect for Dak too.

“One thing I knew about Dak is that he was going to be able to transition to the league because he had played multiple years being the guy. You have so many guys come from college, they have one good year and then they leave, so they don’t actually know what it’s like to have a full offseason where people prepare for you 24-7 and then you still come out there and put up numbers. So he has a good mindset.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s a poised quarterback, he knows what it means to be a leader, he knows what it means to be gameplanned for.

“And I feel like Carson’s the same way. The thing I love about Carson is that same ability but he also has a chip on his shoulder. So you’re talking about two guys that could potentially be like a Brady-Peyton rivalry. The only difference is that you’re going to get this two times a year and possibly playoffs. It’s a fun thing to be a part of, but I’m glad we’ve got 11.”

Prescott’s 103.9 passer rating is highest in NFL history by a rookie going into Week 8, and Wentz’s 92.7 rating is eighth-highest ever.

Prescott and Wentz both began training camp as their team’s No. 3 quarterbacks, Prescott behind Tony Romo and Kellen Moore and Wentz behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel.

But injuries to Romo and Moore and Bradford’s trade to the Vikings left Prescott and Wentz leading their teams into the season.

Prescott’s five wins are the most in NFL history by a rookie in his first six games. Wentz is among six rookies who won four of his first six starts, along with familiar names Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, plus George Shaw of the Colts in 1955.

Wentz stands 6-foot-5, 235 pounds to Prescott’s 6-2, 225. Wentz was the second overall pick out of North Dakota State; Prescott was a fourth-round pick from Mississippi State.

“I actually think they’re kind of similar,” Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “I think they’re similar as far as their build and their intelligence, as far as between Carson and Dak having a good feel for what the offense is trying to do.

“They’re really trying not to make any mistakes. They have a good feel for what is going on. They know what they have to do. They know how to move the ball. They’re just trying to move the ball efficiently. And I think those are two similar guys. Just because they got drafted at two different spots doesn’t make them very different.”

Prescott and Wentz were on opposite teams at the Senior Bowl but got to know each other a little bit at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.

Prescott on Wentz: “Smart guy, great player, great athlete. He’s doing exactly what I thought he’d do. I figured he’d be a good player in this league, and he’s been doing well.”

Wentz on Prescott: “Throughout the process I got to know him a little bit, got to talk to him, great guy, great dude, and it’s exciting to see he’s been having some success as well.”

The last Eagles rookie quarterback to beat the Cowboys was Jack Concannon in 1964.

No Cowboys rookie QB has ever beaten the Eagles (not counting Kevin Sweeney in a 1987 strike replacement game).

Not that long ago, it would have been unthinkable for rookies like Wentz and Prescott to be having this sort of success.

But the game has changed. According to the Pro-Football Reference database, 11 of the 12 rookies who’ve won at least eight games since 1950 have done so since 2004, Roethlisberger’s rookie year.

Matthews was asked what qualities a rookie quarterback needs to have success.

“I think No. 1, you’ve definitely got to be fearless,” he said. “You’ve got to be fearless. That’s the biggest thing because they put you out there, but if your mindset is, ‘Oh, I need a couple years to get this going,’ then you’re definitely not going to be able to come in and do what you need to do.

“But the thing about the NFL that I don’t think people give enough credit to is you have to have a good opportunity. Your opportunities and then the situations that you’re put in are usually going to determine how (successful) you are lots of time as an NFL athlete.

“My wide receiver class, we all came in and everybody said this class justified everything that we ever thought about wide receivers, but at the end of the day too, before this, receivers got drafted and they went to teams that had an older guy and they just kind of eased in. Most of us came in and we were automatically the No. 1 receiver.

“When you’re given a lot, there’s a lot required of you too, you know? And just having that situation, opportunities, you’re going to actually do better. 

“So you talk about guys like Dak and Carson, not only are these guys fearless, they’re great players, but also I feel like they’re also both in great situations too and they have great opportunities (and) have coaches that believe in them.”