It’s not too often you get to learn from one of the best ever.
For the Eagles’ outside linebackers, having Kevin Greene at practice this week has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Greene, No. 3 in NFL history with 160 sacks, is spending three days this week at Eagles practice. Greene played under Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis in 1993 and 1994 with the Steelers and in 1996 and 1998 under Davis with the Panthers.
Davis’ backers are loving every minute of it.
“We have the same body type, similar speed, similar arm length,” Connor Barwin said. “So the way he teaches pass rush is invaluable to me because I can try to carry that over to my game.
“There’s things I’m seeing already, just lessons he’s given me from playing the position for 15 years, the ins and outs and detail of it that he’s taught me the last couple of days that I already brought to the field today, and I can see them helping, so … I’m excited to use what he’s telling me throughout the season.”
Greene trails only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) on the NFL’s all-time sack list. After recording 13½ sacks in his first three seasons, he averaged 12.2 sacks over the next 12 years with the Rams, Steelers, Panthers and 49ers.
Greene led the NFL in sacks twice, one of only four players in history to do so. He went to five Pro Bowls and made first-team all-pro twice. He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been picking his brain as much as I can,” Brandon Graham said. “He’s giving us a whole lot, and it doesn’t stop when he leaves. We have to keep harping on it and remember what he said. So far, so good. It’s just all about staying consistent, master a couple rushes and a couple counter moves and perfect it. That’s what he did. I feel like I’m getting a whole lot out of it.”
Greene retired after the 1999 season, and after a pro wrestling career, he returned to the NFL in 2009, spending five seasons coaching with the Packers under head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Don Capers, who had coached Greene in Pittsburgh and Carolina. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 2010, then left coaching after the 2013 season to spend more time with his family.
He’s only in Philly for a brief few days, but he said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Barwin, Trent Cole, Graham, Marcus Smith and the Eagles’ other outside backers.
“I like them,” Greene said. “Every one of them has a good motor and they all seem to be into it mentally and really working hard. And not just them but everybody. Everybody seems to really be into practice as a team, amped up, really wanting to contribute. Everybody’s working hard, so I really like the atmosphere.
“It feels good to be a part of Philadelphia for a couple days and impart some wisdom on these young kids.”
Greene isn’t coaching these days, although he said he would consider returning to it one day.
His son Gavin is a sophomore at Niceville High School in the Florida Panhandle, where he plays football.
“I don’t miss coaching at all,” Greene said. “I’m doing the same thing with my son that I did with Clay [Matthews] and all my kids there in Green Bay. I’m having the time of my life.
“It’s fun just being a dad. I’m a dad. I’m just a dad. Get my son to practice, I bring him home, put him out in the field and work on some stuff. Father-son time. Really cool.”
For guys like Graham and Cole, having Greene around is a huge help as they try to continue transitioning from 4-3 defensive ends to 3-4 linebackers. For Smith and Barwin, it’s an opportunity to hone their skill even more.
“It’s a very basic, fundamental way of rushing the passer that he's bringing to our guys,” Davis said. “We are excited about picking his brain for three or four days before he leaves.”
Somehow, despite having the most sacks in NFL history by a linebacker, Greene is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a glaring omission.
“The guy has got 160 career sacks and I know I'm prejudice to him but I really do believe it's time for him to be in the Hall [of Fame],” Davis said.
Greene said he doesn’t lose any sleep over the Hall of Fame snub. He’s been a finalist in each of the last three years and should eventually get in.
But it’s impossible to imagine how a guy with more career sacks than Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Richard Dent, Jason Taylor and Derrick Thomas can routinely be ignored by the Hall of Fame voters.
“I look back on my 15 years and I know how I played and I know what I was able to accomplish,” Greene said after practice Monday at the NovaCare Complex (see practice observations).
“My goal was to pass Lawrence Taylor in sacks, because everybody looked at Lawrence Taylor as being the best outside backer and I was blessed to play longer and be more productive than the great Lawrence Tayor.
“So that’s where my peace lies. Whether anybody else recognizes that, that’s really out of my control. But I know what I was able to accomplish playing essentially the same position.”