First off, we want to thank the fine folks over at ESPN for inviting us to the fifth annual "Chalk Talk" event, which connects former players and analysts with fans for an informal luncheon and gameday breakdown of the day's Monday Night Football.
Yesterday, at Lincoln Financial Field, a panel consisting of former players Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook, Jevon Kearse and former Bears star Curtis Conway talked some X's and O's. Before the took center stage, they also spent a few minutes with Metro. Here's some highlights:
Brian Westbrook is not currently with an NFL team, after spending last season in San Francisco. However, the back hasn't filed retirement papers and is "keeping his options open." Back in September, Westbrook worked out for the Miami Dolphins, but the team didn't sign him.
Of course, everyone wants to know his opinion on the emergence of Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. Westbrook is often credited with mentoring Shady and the two remain fast friends.
"I'm his biggest fan, but also his harshest critic," Westbrook said. "I've tried to be a big brother to him. He always tell me, ‘B-West, I want to be like you. I want to be just as good as you.’”
“But, as a player, I want you to be better than me and that’s what I tell him. If you’re just as good as me, as your mentor, as the person helping you, then I failed. I want you to be better than me.”
B-WEST'S CHARITY WORK. Westbrook also wanted us to get the word out on his recent charity work. His foundation, "Brian's Blessings," which was established to help local less fortunate children. While the foundation is based in his native Maryland, where he now resides, Westbrook said it has a national reach. Right now, they are running a holiday toy drive.
JAWORSKI IMPRESSED BY VICK. Former Eagles QB Ron Jaworski often jokes that the reason he watches so much game film is because he has no life. Yesterday, Jaws admitted that he has seen every throw of Mike Vick's NFL career — and he's playing the best football of his life right now.
"When you see the template of Michael Vick right now, from his rookie year to now, you see an incredibly gifted athlete but you also see a gifted quarterback," Jaworski said. "He’s beating defenses with his legs, with his arm, and with his mind. I think he’s arrived."
Jaworski credited new offensive line coach Howard Mudd for not only helping Vick's growth, but for helping the entire Eagles offense, which he said might be the "fastest team" in the history of the NFL. When I asked him what he thought about Vick wearing his old No. 7 jersey, Jaworski laughed and said, "He's the new No. 7. I'm the old No. 7."
TROTTER TALKS DEFENSE. The Axeman, aka Jeremiah Trotter, might be the last truly great middle linebacker to call the shots for the Eagles. He's also a student of the game, serving as a part-time radio personality for 97.5 The Fanatic. Trotter said he believes the Eagles' defense is finally starting to gel after a shortened offseason and compared new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's early struggles to those of Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, when he first landed in New York.
"I remember Steve Spagnuolo, when he first got to New York, and he struggled," Trotter said. "I know at some point, he was starting to doubt his ability as a coach. Eventually, the players started to buy in and they figured it out."
As for Castillo?
"I think he’s handled everything well," Trotter said. "They seem to be getting on the right track."
Trotter is officially retired and isn't planning any more comebacks. Instead, he's been coaching his boys (ages 8 and 6) in Pop Warner football. He also travels to the Dominican Republic once a month for his construction business. Trotter is building condos there. How many?
"Maybe 250 by the time I'm finished," he said.
HALFTIME HONORS. As we get set for tonight's Bears-Eagles game, the team will honor former coach Buddy Ryan at halftime, along with former defensive players Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Keith Byars, Keith Jackson and Mike Pitts. In a conference call with reporters this past Sunday, Ryan called Simmons and Pitts, along with Reggie White and Jerome Brown the "best front four ever assembled." Ryan called the 1985 Chicago Bears, which he also coached, the "greatest defense that ever played in the NFL."
We'll have more from the Linc prior to kickoff. Stay tuned for what should be an electric night ...
Trotter said he keeps in touch with Eagles MLB Jamar Chaney.