Danny Watkins is still learning how to be a starting guard in the NFL.
And while he won’t start Sunday, the Eagles’ No. 1 draft pick intends to make an impact, even if it’s just from the sideline.
Watkins, who worked as a firefighter in his native Canada, is debating whether to wear a decal on his helmet to honor the 343 firefighters that perished in the 9/11 attacks.
“I’ve thought about getting a fire department sticker and putting it on my helmet in remembrance,” Watkins said.
He had been worried about incurring a potential fine from the NFL for breaking the league’s stringent uniform code. Since Watkins is a rookie, he was a little concerned about stirring the pot.
“You know, if they want to fine me … I’m not really in a position to be doing that,” Watkins said. “It’s definitely a moral dilemma, you know, that’s the least I could do to pay my respects, but there are strict codes and rules so I have to figure something out.”
Early Friday, Bears linebacker Lance Briggs tweeted a picture of red, white and blue cleats and gloves etched with the words, “Never Forget.” Briggs wrote, “Reebok great job on these gloves and shoes..looks like I’m getting fined this week. Lol! By far the best fine I will ever have to pay. Thanks!”
By Friday evening, the NFL told all 32 teams that they could wear special shoes and gloves made by NFL-licensed companies. That will obviously apply to Briggs, but would Watkins’ tribute be in violation?
Greg Aiello, the league’s senior vice-president of communications, wrote an e-mail saying, "All players will wear a 9-11 jersey patch and have 9-11 team caps available to wear on the sidelines."
So Watkins could be facing a fine if he alters his helmet. As of Friday afternoon, he was still deciding what to do.
“Yeah, I don’t know, it’s a tough call,” Watkins said. “My thing is I wanted to do a thing in memory of the 343 firefighters that lost their lives. That would be big for me.”
Watkins, who was 16 when the 9/11 attacks occurred, famously toured FDNY headquarters in New York City back in April, on draft weekend. Watkins, along with a half dozen firemen from his old fire department, paid their respects at Ground Zero and hung out at one of the local firehouses. The 26-year-old said he still keeps in touch with them.
“They’re having a big memorial in New York and some of the firemen from Canada are coming down,” Watkins said.
There are several events scheduled this weekend in New York to honor firefighters, including a motorcycle motorcade on Sunday. Watkins, of course, will be in St. Louis for the Eagles’ season opener, his first NFL game.
Originally slated to start, the 310-pounder will now be watching from the bench as veteran Kyle DeVan takes his place at right guard. But don't read too much into that. The organization is still high on its top pick. After Watkins struggled in the preseason, coach Andy Reid just wanted him to “take one small step back to take a big step forward.”
Watkins agreed that is the best move at this time.
“Honestly, it’s going to benefit me. I’m not worried about it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It’s just a completely new system and Kyle is here and I’m learning a lot from him. It’s a good situation.”