It’s hard to imagine there’s anybody in Eagles training camp more appreciative of his opportunity than Greg Ward.
“It means everything,” Ward said.
Ward is a unique and inspirational story in Eagles history. There’s never been anyone like him. A converted college quarterback, an undrafted free agent, a reliable slot whenever his number is called. Which isn’t very often.
Only six wide receivers ever have spent more time with the organization than Ward, and it’s quite a list: Harold Carmichael, Mike Quick, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Charlie Smith and Ben Hawkins.
This summer is like every other summer since 2017 for Ward. On the outside looking in, working as hard as possible and not worrying about where he fits in.
“Just get better every single day,” he said. “I don't care about numbers. All I care about is progress, my teammates and just getting better.”
We all remember how good Ward was at the end of 2019, when he came off the practice squad to catch 28 passes for 254 yards the last six weeks of the season in his first six career games as the Eagles made an improbable playoff run.
A year later he led the injury-riddled wide receiving corps with 53 catches, and in 2021 he caught seven passes for 95 yards.
He was hurt last summer and didn’t play in the preseason, so the preseason opener vs. the Ravens Saturday night was his first game action since the end of the 2021 regular season.
“I haven't played in about a year and a half,” he said. “I'm just truly blessed to be out here. I'm just thankful to the organization for allowing me to be here and allowing me to touch the field. I'm grateful for that.”
The Greg Ward we saw catching passes from Marcus Mariota Saturday night in Baltimore looked exactly like the Greg Ward we saw catching passes from Carson Wentz in the 2017 preseason, Josh McCown in 2019 and Joe Flacco in 2021.
Running crisp routes, getting open out of the slot against faster corners and catching everything near him.
“He makes it easy," Mariota said. "He’s one of those guys that knows what to do. He’s always going to be in the right place. He’s always going to create separation. It’s on me just to give him opportunities to catch the football. He made a few really good plays for us (Saturday night)."
Ward has the same mentality today as he had six years ago.
Every day is an opportunity to improve. An opportunity to learn.
“I've made a lot of mental progress,” Ward said. “You’ve always got to get your mind right. You always got to continue to work on your craft, man. And that's what I've been doing. So I'm just going to continue to do that and stay on my path.
“I think I'm on the right path. I have a long way to go, but I'm on the right path. So I'm just gonna stay there and continue to get better.”
When Ward was a rookie, he was part of a receiving corps with Jordan Matthews, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson, Bryce Treggs and Mack Hollins.
The only other Eagles remaining from the 2017 team are Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Rick Lovato, Derek Barnett and Jake Elliott.
Ward has to be doing something right.
He’s had three entire seasons where he didn’t get into a game, including last year. He’s been released seven times. He’s had to play in the AAF to find his way back into the NFL. He’s the only player in NFL history to be on the practice squad for two Super Bowls five years apart.
Ward is the kind of guy every coach wants in the locker room and the practice field, even if there isn’t a spot for him on the roster.
Ward caught five passes for 53 yards from Mariota in the first half Saturday night in Baltimore in his first game of any kind in 574 days. It was the most yards he’s had in any game since late in 2020, when he was 3-for-57 in a loss to the Packers at Lambeau.
In a perfect world, there’d be a roster spot for Ward. But A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus are the top four receivers on the roster, Britain Covey is the presumed fifth receiver and punt returner, and young guys like Tyrie Cleveland and Joseph Ngata have both had impressive training camps.
But Ward doesn’t care. He doesn’t worry about it. He really does take things the proverbial one day at a time and doesn’t have time to be concerned with things he can’t control.
“That's something I had when I got here,” he said. “I couldn't worry about that. If I was worrying about that, I already lost. That was my mindset.
“If you focus on the wrong things, it's going to get you away from playing on the field. So you’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing.
“I take it day by day. It's not like I'm in a rush.”