Entering 10th year with Eagles, Brent Celek still has high expectations


The Eagles could have parted ways with Brent Celek this offseason. Could have saved a bunch of money. Could have cleared the way for younger players to get on the field. Could have moved on from a 31-year-old tight end following his least productive receiving season since reaching the NFL in 2007.

Instead, the Eagles gave Celek a contract extension, and in turn an opportunity to be the rare professional athlete who starts and finishes a lengthy career with one team.

That possibility isn't lost on the 10th-year veteran, although retiring as a member of the Eagles wasn't the only thing on Celek's mind when he re-signed. There's still the matter of a little unfinished business as well.

"It means a lot," Celek said of staying with the Eagles during last week's minicamp, "but I want to win a Super Bowl for this city.

"To me, that would be the ultimate goal. I've been lucky enough to be here for a long time, but we need to win. That's all this city cares about."

Celek has been through a lot with the Eagles. He's caught passes from more quarterbacks than he could name — literally. He's served as both a focal point in the passing attack and a blocking tight end. He's endured losing seasons, won division championships and gone as far as the conference title game.

Of course, 2008 is a long time ago, and the Eagles haven't won a playoff game since. Yet through all of the ups and downs, Celek still keeps the faith that this could be their season.

"I feel good," said Celek of the Eagles' chances in 2016, "but I feel good every year, so me coming up here saying that, I'm repeating myself. It's gonna take us all coming into training camp, being consistent every single day and just taking it one day at a time and focusing on getting better that day, not looking down the road to all the games we've got.

"I think if we do that, we've got a very talented team. We've got a bunch of good guys. I think we could do well."

Despite Celek's dwindling numbers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson obviously felt he could be a part of something special as well.

From 2009 to 2013, Celek never recorded fewer than 500 yards receiving in a season while scoring 24 total touchdowns. Over the past two years, however, he was unable to crack 400 yards receiving and found the end zone just four times. Not only that, but his blocking appeared to slip as well.

The Eagles awarded Celek a new three-year contract this offseason anyway, even though Zach Ertz ascended to starter last season and signed a much more lucrative extension of his own. Pederson, who was a coach with the Eagles during some of Celek's best years, clearly had some say in the matter.

"The biggest thing with Brent is he's basically a pro's pro," Pederson said. "That guy comes to work every day.

"He's a sharp kid. He knows how to get himself physically ready for the next season. Tough kid. Smart. Has battled through his injury streak as well through the course of his years.

"He’s a guy that when I was here before, was really someone you can trust on offense and really kind of put a load on him at the tight end position. He's learned the position. He's learned how to run routes, compete, man coverage, zone coverage, he's very smart and it just comes with experience. It comes with playing a ton of games, and a guy that I look forward to counting on this season."

A former fifth-round draft pick now heading into his 10th season in the league, Celek admits fighting off the aging process is a lot of work in itself these days.

"I have to work a lot harder at staying young," Celek said. "It's not easy. I've gotta stretch a lot more, take a lot better care of my body. I don't bounce back like I used to when I was 21, 22."

That being said, Celek may stand to benefit from the changes under Pederson. His numbers have declined, at least in part, because he was used primarily as a blocker by the last coaching regime, while this new offense seems like it might get more creative with the tight ends. Slowing things down, playing fewer snaps and not going uptempo all the time should aid the older players as well.

No matter what he does on the field, Celek has something to contribute to this team: experience. Only Jon Dorenbos has been a member of the Eagles longer, while Celek is the fourth longest-tenured athlete in all of Philadelphia behind the long snapper and the Phillies' Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Celek knows all about the expectations.

If nothing else, he can help his teammates prepare for the grind that's ahead.

"The offseason is the offseason, but once you get to training camp, that's a different animal," Celek said.

"We're gonna have a tough training camp, I think we all know that here. It's not gonna be easy, but it's gonna get us ready for the season. I think everyone just having the right mindset going in, it's not gonna be easy, but doing anything great, it's never easy."

A year or two from now, chances are Celek will be the longest tenured athlete here. That would be kind of special, but all he's focused on right now is how to get the Eagles to the top of the mountain and finally giving this city a parade.

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