How Eagles are trying to refocus during emotional week in NFL


Nick Sirianni isn’t pretending this is easy.

As the entire NFL world prays for Damar Hamlin, there are games coming up. The Week 18 NFL schedule has remained untouched and the Eagles have an important game against the Giants with a chance to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

So how are the Eagles balancing all these delicate and important conversations and feelings with the need to refocus for a football game?

“You just do,” Sirianni said on Wednesday afternoon. “You go from one to the next, and you try to make the transition there because you talk about the tough things that are happening, and you have that conversation and then you transition.

“It's not easy, and it's not going from, like, meetings to walkthrough. That's not what we're talking about here, so you just try to move on. It's a tough balance, but you just try to move on to the next thing and be where you are at that time, but also understanding that guys' minds could be in other places at that time as well.”

That understanding is an important one.

Because NFL players certainly realize the great danger they put themselves in every time they step on the football field but Monday’s emergency in the Bills-Bengals game was still shocking. It’s unlike anything these players or coaches have ever seen.

And as Hamlin remains in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field, the rest of the NFL is preparing to play a game. That seems somewhat surreal, but games are going to be played. And it’s a disservice and potentially even dangerous to prepare with any less effort than is required.

“I think obviously you want [Hamlin] to feel better, you want him to get better,” veteran Fletcher Cox said. “At the same time, we have as a team, we have a really, really big game coming up. Not saying that we have to put that situation behind us. I know guys will be thinking about it.

“I think about guys like Miles (Sanders), who’s close to him, Avonte (Maddox), who played in college with him. You think about those guys and you check on them. You make sure that they’re OK. I think for us, we just have to rally together, stick together through this. And be there for our teammates that’s really close to him. And also, we got a really big game coming up.”

Sirianni said he was in shock when Hamlin went down and a bunch of emotions went through him. Some of his first thoughts were about his past as a football player and eventually he starting thinking about his son, who plays football.

Among those thoughts for Sirianni, though, was about how he would try to guide his players through the emotions they’d be feeling this week.

But moments like this are why Sirianni stresses connecting so much. It’s why he wants to have a family atmosphere in the NovaCare Complex.

“So that's what you have hoped you've built to this point so you can help guys through a tough time,” Sirianni said.

While this is obviously a unique situation, Sirianni said it’s there standard operating procedure to communicate in good times and bad.

“I think for us, we got a job to do, knowing what’s at stake coming up for us,” Brandon Graham said. “I do know that we’re checking in, making sure we know what’s going on with [Hamlin’s] status. I think that everybody is just trying to make sure that if we do have questions or if people are feeling a certain way, that you voice it. Because Coach (Sirianni) will understand. That’s what his message was today.”

Sirianni declined to get into the specifics of the message he shared with his team and the conversations he’s had with players.

But he just wanted his players to know that he cared about and was there for them.

“We're just here for them right now and trying to just be there for them, and this is an opportunity for us to practice what we preach,” Sirianni said. “Do we really believe the connecting thing, or is it all just BS? This is our opportunity to not only say we're there for you guys, but also be there for them.”

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