Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

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Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

The 2014 Eagles schedule is finally out, and for thousands of fans, now it’s time to figure out which road game to go to.

We’ll eliminate East Rutherford and Washington, which are close enough for a day trip (not that you’d want to take a day trip to East Rutherford), and focus on the Eagles’ six other 2014 destinations.

So let’s take a look at the six potential weekend road trips for Eagles fans who like to travel. We’ll rank them in order, from best trip to worst, and give you some ideas for what you can do with your free time.

San Francisco, Sept. 28
If you haven’t been to the Bay Area, you simply have to go. Eagles game or not, it’s one of the greatest destinations in the Lower 48.

Plus, this year, you get the benefit of seeing the 49ers’ new stadium, the spectacular Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of downtown San Francisco. Anything would be an upgrade over the dilapidated Candlestick Park, but word is that Levi’s Stadium will be one of the league’s best facilities.

Top five attractions
1. Marin County, the Redwoods, Wine Country: To really appreciate the area, you need to drive north of San Francisco and experience the spectacular natural beauty of Marin County and nearby Sonoma and Napa counties. Wineries, redwood parks, the coastline ... a day north of San Francisco is worth the trip.

2. The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Point: It’s not just a bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge affords amazing views of the city, the bay, Alcatraz, the ocean. There’s a pedestrian walkway across the bridge and Vista Point on the west end of the bridge, where you can park and take pictures. Best of all is Golden Gate Point on the Marin County side, accessible via Conzelman Road off Rte. 101 south. This is the vantage point seen on the cover of the Grateful Dead’s Dead Set, and the views are just astonishing.

3. Alcatraz: A short cruise from Pier 43 gets you to the Rock, and tours of the notorious prison and its grounds are available. Check out the cells once occupied by Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Machine Gun Kelly and Whitey Bulger. Warning: Don’t go if you’re easily creeped out.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf: A little touristy, but the Fisherman’s Wharf area has tons of shops, bars, restaurants and vendors, plus the Wax Museum, the famous sea lions and the Pier 39 marketplace.

5. Lombard Street: Drive down the world’s crookedest street. Why? Why not. You’ll understand when you get there. But keep it slow. The speed limit is 5 mph.

Arizona, Oct. 26
Once upon a time, the Cardinals were in the NFC East, and it was good. It didn’t make geographical sense, but I wasn’t about to complain about an annual trip to the Valley of the Sun.

These days, a trip to Arizona is rare, and it’s highly recommended.

Top five attractions
1. The Grand Canyon: You’ve seen pictures, and trust me. They do not do it justice. You simply have to see the thing before you die. It is insane.

2. Sedona: If you don’t have time to make the 3½-hour trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a heck of a consolation prize. Block after block of New Age shopping mixed with the spectacular beauty of the Sonoran desert makes Sedona one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

3. Historic Scottsdale: The ritzy northern suburb of Phoenix was once named the most livable city in the U.S. and it’s still one of the most visitable cities, with high-end shopping, restaurants, hotels, spas, much of it centered in Old Town. Oh, and bring your debit card, you’re going to need it.

4. Tonto National Forest: Driving through this vast wilderness area northeast of Phoenix is like driving through a living postcard. Cactus, wildlife, giant shards of rock jutting out of the ground, plenty of hiking areas ... just please watch out for snakes.

5. Montezuma Castle: You won’t believe your eyes when you see the 12th-Century cliff dwellings about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Breathtaking. Just think ... people lived there nearly a thousand years ago. Crazy.

Green Bay, Nov. 16
There isn’t a whole lot to Green Bay other than the Packers, but if you’re a hardcore football fan, you have to make the pilgrimage to Green Bay at some point.

Top five attractions
1. Lambeau Field: Like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, Lambeau is one of a dying breed -- a stadium that manages to mix historic charm with modern amenities. It opened 15 years before the Vet, and it’s still as majestic as ever.

2. Packers Hall of Fame: Even if you’re not a Packers fan, you’ll appreciate the history of an NFL franchise that dates back to 1921. And several of the members have area ties -- long-time Eagle Reggie White of course, Mount Laurel native Dave Robinson and Philly native Herb Adderley among them.

3. Green Bay trolley tours: A great way to see the city and learn about the Packers and their history is the narrated trolley tours.

4. Outagamie County Historical Society: Located in nearby Appleton (where you’ll probably be staying), the historical society includes a display about the life of notorious senator Joseph McCarthy.

5. Hazelwood Historic House: The best example of Greek Revival architecture you’ll find in Green Bay. Seriously. (And, yes, finding five things to do in Green Bay isn’t easy, but it’s still a great trip!)

Dallas, Nov. 27
There’s the Grassy Knoll, and there’s everything else. Just like visiting the Grand Canyon is mandatory when you’re in Arizona, making your way to the Grassy Knoll and book depository is mandatory when you’re in North Texas.

Top five attractions
1. Dealey Plaza: Even all these years later, you still get chills exploring Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and the site of the Texas School Book Depository, where President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. There’s now a museum in the old book depository. Any list of things to do in Dallas has to start at Dealey Plaza.

2. Jerry’s World: The Cowboys’ new stadium, now called AT&T Stadium, is so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. It’s absurdly huge, hopelessly garrish and hilariously over-the-top. If you’re going to the game, make sure you allow extra time just to walk around and soak it all in.

3. George W. Bush Presidential Center: You don’t have to be a Republican to appreciate the history of one of only four two-term Presidents of the last 50 years. The Center is more historical than political, and even the most liberal Eagles fan will find plenty to see at the Bush Center.

4. Geo-Deck: From 470 feet above Dallas you’ll get the best views of Dallas and the entire North Texas region.

5. Cowboy Hall of Fame: No, not the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame. This is the museum of actual cowboys. Hey, you’re just not going to find this stuff in Pennsauken.

Indianapolis, Sept. 15
No major city in the United States has grown in recent years as much as Indianapolis. Thanks in great part to the 2011 Super Bowl, Indy has added tons of new restaurants, hotels and attractions. It’s actually not a bad place to go these days.

Top five attractions
1. The Speedway: Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, the Brickyard is definitely worth checking out. There’s an Indy 500 museum and gift shop, lots of cars from throughout Indy 500 history and even a bus that takes you around the track ... a little slower than you’re used to.

2. Hinkle Fieldhouse: Once upon a time, Butler’s fieldhouse was the largest college arena in the country. Those days are gone, but along with the Palestra and Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym it’s one of the oldest and most historic on-campus arenas in college basketball. Hinkle opened in 1928, one year after the Palestra and three years after Rose Hill.

3. The Eiteljorg Museum: Located in the center of town, the Eiteljorg hosts countless Native American artifacts and artwork of Western artists.

4. Indianapolis Zoo: An easy walk from downtown across the White River, the Indy Zoo is one of the nation’s best, and it’s located within the White River State Park, a terrific destination in itself.

5. Fountain Square: Fun little neighborhood just south of downtown with tons of Bohemian shops, unique bars and restaurants and diverse attractions.

Houston, Nov. 2
OK, let’s face it. You don’t want to go to Houston. You’d rather spend a weekend in East Rutherford. But ... we’ll try here.

Top five attractions
1. NASA Space Center: The Johnson Space Center’s visitors center features lots of exhibits, displays, interactive games and theaters and even a restored space shuttle capsule that you can go inside.

2. Battleship Texas: Located just east of Houston in La Porte, the Battleship Texas rests now at the mouth of Trinity Bay. The Texas, first launched in 1912, participated in both World War I and World War II and has served as a museum since 1948.

3. The Beer Can House: Yes, there’s a house made out of beer cans. About 50,000 of them. This probably should have been ranked higher.

4. Underground Houston: A 7½-mile network of tunnels connects most of the buildings in downtown Houston and features tons of bars, restaurants and shopping areas. It’s great, since it allows you to not actually have to see Houston.

5. The Strand District: Located about an hour from Houston, the Strand is a historic landmark in Galveston filled with antique shops, galleries, restaurants, clubs, museums and hotels. Worth the drive.

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears added some salsa, signing former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday.

The Bears were looking for help after Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia.

A feared receiver with the Giants, he helped them win the Super Bowl before being slowed by injuries. He was released after seven seasons in February.

Cruz has 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of which he celebrated with a salsa dance. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Last year, he had 39 catches and one touchdown reception.

Giants: Beckham, Vernon miss OTAs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York ended their first week of voluntary organized team activities missing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The workout Thursday was fourth of the week, and Beckham missed them all. The team did not say whether Vernon missed all four, but the veteran who signed an $85 million contract in the offseason last year wasn't there Thursday, the only day workouts were open to the media.

The only other player missing was third-year defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, who hinted since the end of last season that he may take time away from football.

While coach Ben McAdoo said he wanted all his players at the workouts, he said he would coach the ones there.

NFL: International players to join practice squads
NEW YORK -- Four NFL teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season. Three players are from Britain and one from Germany.

The announcement by the NFL on Thursday is part of a new International Player Pathway program.

The international players are: tight end Alex Gray with Atlanta, defensive end Efe Obada with Carolina, defensive end Alex Jenkins with New Orleans and linebacker Eric Nzeocha with Tampa Bay.

The players have been training alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida the past three months.

Gray is a former rugby player; Jenkins and Nzeocha were recent college players. Obada was originally signed by Dallas in 2015. Each team will get an exemption for an 11th practice player, who is ineligible to be activated during the season.

Bills: LB Hodges signs, CB Gaines released
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have signed linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started 12 games for San Francisco last season.

Team officials also said Thursday that cornerback Charles Gaines had been released.

Hodges is going into his fifth season after being drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played two-plus seasons with Minnesota before joining the 49ers. He had 83 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.

Gaines did not play last season but started four games for Cleveland in 2015.

Jaguars: Jags to host Bucs for joint practices
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two joint training camp practices before their preseason game in August.

The teams will practice Monday and Tuesday before playing Thursday night, Aug. 17. The Jaguars also will have two joint practices at New England a week earlier, before their preseason opener.

New coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin want the Jaguars to be more physical. Holding joint practices in consecutive weeks will make that clear to the players.

Marrone says he's a fan of joint practices "as long as you can make sure that it is competitive and not combative."

The Jaguars and Bucs also practiced together in Jacksonville before their preseason game last year.

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

Nelson Agholor’s rookie season was a disappointment, but his second year in the NFL was a disaster, the pressure of which was clearly getting to him. Now Agholor finds himself on the roster bubble as his third year with the Eagles commences, and it’s fair to wonder what the wide receiver’s mindset is like in 2017.

“Confident and comfortable,” Agholor said Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where OTAs had just begun.

Earlier in the day, Agholor had been involved at practice — cycling in with the first-team offense and getting plenty of looks, too. Later, he was be the last player to leave the field, continuing to run sprints alone after practice ended. Finally, back in the locker room, Agholor explained the epiphany he arrived at during the offseason, and how he knows he’s ready to put 2016 behind him.

“I just had a realization that the only thing that matters is the current situation,” Agholor said. “I’m here, I have an opportunity to get better and make myself a better football player.”

None of this means everything is about to click for Agholor and he’s suddenly going to perform up to his status as a first-round pick. The Eagles clearly weren’t counting on that, either, when they signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, then selected two more receivers in the draft.

If Agholor intends to turn his career around, a fresh outlook isn’t a bad place to start.

Failing to meet expectations and under relentless scrutiny, Agholor’s demeanor changed over the course of last season. Frustrations finally boiled over during a postgame rant after an Eagles loss to the Cowboys. Four weeks later, he was a healthy scratch against the Packers. Though Agholor suited up for the final five games, there was no discernable change from a production standpoint.

“That’s in the past,” Agholor said. “I practiced today. I got after it today. Anything that happened back then, it happened for a reason.”

Agholor — who turned 24 Wednesday — attributed the bulk of his struggles to youth and inexperience while denying mental or confidence issues were to blame for his performance. With only 59 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns to show after two years, the Eagles couldn’t wait for him to grow up any longer, which led to Jeffery and Smith being brought on board.

“I took it for what it was,” Agholor said. “I said, ‘This was what happened, this is the new opportunity, so every day, just focus on getting better at some aspect of it.’

“It’s all about getting better consistently each day, even if it’s just a little. At the end of the day, the whole world will be like, ‘Man, this is the product?’ Some of the best players in this league, they didn’t just become really great the first day there. It took a process and continuous progression every day.”

But how exactly does Agholor go about making that jump? Because work ethic has never been a complaint, nor was talent a problem at Southern California, where he finished with 179 receptions for 2,571 yards and 20 touchdowns in 40 games.

There’s no telling whether Agholor will ever put it all together in the NFL. He has, however, refined his approach.

“I focused on the simple grind, whether it’s conditioning, whether it was living weights,” Agholor said of offseason workouts. “I wasn’t trying to have just a miracle happen. I just started focusing on the simplest things.

“I got on the track and worked on my speed and worked on my conditioning. I was in the weight room, worked on my strength and my durability, making sure my muscles were working the right way. That’s all it was, little things like that.”

Coaches and teammates are seeing a difference in Agholor as well. Most of all, they believe competing against veterans like Jeffery and Smith will bring the best out of a young receiver still trying to find his way.

“Nelson's attitude has been great. He's worked extremely hard this offseason,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “As I've said all along, competition sharpens you, and that's what I've seen from Nelson.”

“I feel like competition is what’s going to help breed production,” Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. “If you’ve got more guys coming in and working, you don’t have time to worry about this, this and this. You have to worry about going in and keeping your job, you have to worry about going in and making plays every single day, and that goes for everybody, not just Nelson.”

Agholor does not disagree.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to compete vs. some really good players,” Agholor said of Jeffery and Smith. “These guys have proven themselves in the league, so if I show that I’m capable of performing the same way they are, then I’m in the conversation.”

That might seem like wishful thinking, but for this brief period in OTAs, Agholor has the upper hand — he knows the offense. And even if the Eagles wanted to move on from Agholor this year, his contract is such that a release would cost more against the salary cap than if he was to remain on the roster.

Financial ramifications aside, Agholor’s spot on the final 53-man roster legitimately appears to be in jeopardy. His hope, in the meantime, is to make himself indispensable.

“I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team, and that takes care of it right there,” Agholor said. “I want to be a guy when you watch him on tape, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I need him.’

“The best players play, and I want to be one of the best players.”

For all of the doubts about his confidence, Agholor has seldom had any trouble expressing a general belief that he belongs in the NFL. Any doubts he did have, he obviously did not entertain for very long, based on his goals in 2017.

“I love this game, and I want to play this game for a long time, so I’m not going to allow anybody besides myself determine how long I do this,” Agholor said. “This is only Year 3, and I want to play 10-plus. The only way I do that is making myself available and making myself a good football player.”

Coming off of a season that nearly caused him to lose his swagger and cool, Agholor is doing and saying all the right things again, even as the Eagles bring in potential replacements. Perhaps the notion that it feels like a step in the right direction speaks to how poorly those first two seasons went.