The list of Philadelphia athletes who really understood the city is a short one. Those guys share similar traits: blue-collar, hard-nosed, physical, loyal – and no one player may embody all those things better than Jason Kelce.
The legendary Eagles center has proven it with his play on the field and his words off it. While plenty of divas blow through town with flippant attitudes, Kelce never did. He took his lumps and developed into one of the greatest players in franchise history. Eleven years in, the Cleveland native still gets it.
Now Kelce has provided the blueprint for withstanding the pressure cooker and attached a text-book definition of how to be successful in Philly. This is what he told reporters on Thursday, October 21:
“Obviously being a good player helps out. You win a Super Bowl and have the game-winning touchdown [Zach Ertz], you’re going to be pretty loved. This city really appreciates accountability, appreciates people being very honest, real, emotionally invested, caring – you know there’s a lot of people that say it’s a hard place to play, I think it’s pretty f****** easy to be honest with you. You just go out there, play hard – you want to be loved in this city as a baseball player? Run to first base and they’re going to f****** love you. I mean that’s what it comes down to.”
It’s not always easy or fun, per Kelce, but if you hold yourself accountable then everything works out. Respect is earned, not given.
“Everybody’s going to get crushed at some point,” Kelce said. “Everybody’s going to go through a down turn or be struggling, right? And at all times this city is going to be keeping you accountable for doing your job and performing. But if you stick to it and you fight through it, and you get better and everything like that, they’ll respect the hell out of you. That’s what I think most guys miss, I really don’t think this is a hard place to play at all. I think it would be miserable to play in a place like Jacksonville where nobody cares.”
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Ben Simmons: ‘Just Play Better, Man’
Ben Simmons has enjoyed an infamous run to top villain status in Philly. He’s a basketball player who can’t shoot. Check that, a basketball player who refuses to shoot. And now he’s engaged in a childish tug of war with the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office.
“You write your own narrative,” Kelce said. “I don’t want to crush any other players, what’s going on with the 76ers and Ben Simmons and stuff like that, all that is because of a lack of accountability, a lack of owning up to mistakes, and a lack of correcting things. If all that got corrected, if you’re fixing free throws, if you’re getting better as a player, none of this is happening. So everybody can bitch and complain about how tough this city is to play in – just play better, man. This city will love you.”
Simmons has been accused of being mentally soft, a guy afraid to look himself in the mirror and see his own flaws. His inflated ego might hinder what was once a promising career. Kelce, who was speaking in general terms with no insight into Simmons’ situation, explained how to navigate the muck.
“The reality is the stuff that hurts players or hurts guys the most is when it is true,” Kelce said. “Somebody’s up there saying a bunch of stuff that you don’t believe yourself, you don’t get upset about it. You’re just like, ‘That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about’ so you just brush it off. Usually the stuff that tears apart organizations, that tears apart players mentally, is because it is true and you can’t wrestle with the fact that it’s true or figure out how to correct it. So you lash out and blame other people.”
Farewell, Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz was sent packing in a trade to the Arizona Cardinals on October 15. The Eagles informed him of the move prior to kickoff in Week 6. Ertz’s exodus had been brewing for almost a year, so no one was too upset.
The Eagles did right by the three-time Pro Bowler and sent him to a team with a legitimate chance at a Lombardi Trophy. It was still tough for several teammates to see him go, including Kelce.
“I think it all hits you at once, probably,” Kelce said. “Whether it’s the best thing for you or not, he was very emotional after the [Tampa Bay] game. I’m really happy for him obviously, but I’m going to miss him for sure.”
And, no, Kelce won’t be dying his hair back from blond right away. Remember, he lost a bet over whether Ertz would be traded in the offseason.
“I already lost that bet, there’s no going back now,” Kelce said. “I’ll just wait for it to grow out. I got the short end of the stick on that one.”