EAGLES PLAYERS AND REDDICK SEEM THRILLED TO BE TOGETHER
The former Temple standout and Camden NJ native said at his press conference that he very much wanted to play in Philadelphia
If former Temple standout Haason Reddick was aching to come back to his native Delaware Valley home after his first NFL season in Arizona, you could understand the homesickness.
Reddick grew up in South Jersey, played his high school football at Haddon Heights, then stayed in the area, turning in an outstanding career with the Owls.
The Philadelphia area was the only sports environment he’d even known.
But if after five seasons of pro football, four with the Cardinals and last season with the Carolina Panthers, the hunger to return to Philly was just as strong…why fight it?
Especially if the high caliber play Riddick registered over the last two seasons gave him the rare opportunity to call the shots.
“It’s exciting to be home,” said Riddick at his NovaCare press conference after signing a three-year $45 million deal that included $30 million in guaranteed money. “I was thrilled when I realized I was coming here. I was overwhelmed with emotion. To be closer to my family and to be able to play back in the stadium where I spent my whole college career, in front of the fans that watched me grow as a player. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m just thankful for the opportunity."
Reddick thanked Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, Nick Sirianni and his management team for making it possible.
“This right here is amazing,” Reddick said. “I don’t think this story could have been written any better. I can’t wait to get in front of the fans and the start of the season.”
Reddick has some terrific memories as a college football player.
Reddick played a key role in Temple’s historic 27-10 win over Penn State in 2015 (first since 1941) recording four tackles (two solo) with 1.5 sacks for 10 yards.
He was clutch in front of over 68,000 mostly Temple fans at the Linc, a rare sellout for Owls football.
At his press conference Reddick said he hadn’t settled on a jersey number. But last week the Birds revealed Reddick will draw on his “Temple Tough” days and wear No. 7.
Temple has a long tradition of giving out single digits to their toughest non players, voted on by their teammates. Offensive lineman couldn’t participate because they are required to wear numbers between 50 and 79.
It is obvious Reddick very much wanted to come home to play in front of family and friends. But what is it about the Eagles he liked so much to go out of his way to sign with the Birds?
“Just the spirit of it all,” Reddick said. “Contrary to belief, this is a great place to be. It’s a great sports town, a great sports city. And the connections here. I love it here.”
Reddick said he spent every offseason in South Jersey. It did not matter to him that the Eagles were not a very good defense in 2021.
Reddick said he hasn’t thought about how defensive coordinator Jonathon Gannon will use him in his defensive scheme.
Gannon was criticized for his style of play which was to not give up the big play, to rarely commit to taking chances, or blitz.
The Eagles defense was setting records for allowing opposing quarterbacks to thrive with stunning completion percentages and yards.
Many have wondered how a pass rusher on a team that recorded just 29 sacks (No. 31 in the league) in 2021 could thrive. Reddick recorded 12.5 sacks in 2020 with Arizona and 11 sacks in 2021 with the Panthers.
“I’m a versatile player,” Reddick said. “I believe I will be used for my versatility. We’ll get to the X’s and O’s once we get to OTAs and training camp.”
NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR REDDICK, AND HE MEANT IT
His stat line against the Eagles in week four of the 2021 season was Pro Bowl worthy. Reddick led the Panthers with eight combined tackles (six solo), two sacks, two quarterback hurries and two tackles for loss.
It was like he was trying to sell himself to the Eagles that sunny afternoon in Charlotte. Is playing for the team he grew up watching when he was playing for the Garnets in South Jersey something he thought about those days?
On Draft day 2017 in Philadelphia, The Arizona Cardinals picked Reddick at the No. 13 spot in the first round. The Eagles selected Derek Barnet with the No. 14 overall pick.
“It was crazy to see how close I was to being home,” Reddick said. “Especially with the Draft being in Philly that year. That’s what I meant with the comment earlier. I don’t think the story could have been written any better. To play in Philadelphia, 15 minutes from home…just across the bridge in Jersey. To get drafted in Philadelphia but missing the Eagles by one pick…then have this thing come full circle. Now to get back to the link is wonderful.”
Reddick was asked more than once on how he feels head coach Nick Sirianni and Gannon plan to use his ability to get to the quarterback when the style the Birds play on defense seems to hold back great pass rushers like Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Josh Sweat.
“To be honest, I haven’t even gotten to take in how I’m going to be used here,” Reddick continued. “I have a bunch of family here and for the last few days I’ve been just taking it all in with the chance to be able to come back home where my mom and my father and my siblings are.
“I started my career so far from home in Arizona, they weren’t able to come out to as many games as I would have liked to because of the distance. Being able to close that gap now…and being back in front of the fans, is extremely wonderful, and that’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past couple days.”
Reddick said he wanted to come to a team where he knew people on the team and in the community. He kept referring to “connections” here in the Delaware Valley and with the team.
“I know a couple guys in the team. Outside of that I understand that I was wanted here. And just my connection to the City.”
NEW TEAMMATES REACHED OUT TO SAY HELLO
Reddick talked about how many of the current players reached out to him directly and publicly.
“I talked to Slay today, I talked to (Jason) Kelce today as well,” Reddick said. “I was just talking to them about the opportunity to come here and get ready to ball out and do something great with those guys. BG (Brandon Graham) reached out to me on Twitter.
“‘Gravedigger’…I like that name so I’m going to call him that, Javon Hargrave reached out to me on Twitter as well. It was crazy to see those guys wanted me here, to come be part of what they’re already a part of…ball out with them.”
Reddick said he was particularly impressed that quarterback Jalen Hurts reached out to him to welcome him to the nest.
The Camden, New Jersey native likely made Hurts’ trip home from last year’s game a little uncomfortable after those two hard sacks. The Eagles won the game, but Hurts was surely smarting afterward.
“Hurts got my number, he texted me, congratulating me,” Reddick said. “He told me how thankful he was that I was finally on his team and not having to play him anymore. Anytime, somebody who plays offense congratulates you…and they tell you how they love your game, how they’re glad you’re on the team, and don’t have to go against them anymore, that lets you know you’re doing big things and your game speaks for itself.”
Reddick said he let his agent Tory Dandy (CAA Sports) handle all negotiations with the Eagles.
“I let my agent handle it,” Reddick said. “Once the tampering period started, we just weighed all the options and I decided to go from there.”
For his career, according to pro-football-reference.com, Reddick has played in 80 regular season games with 47 starts. He has 31 sacks, 323 combined tackles (199 solo), 45 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles, 15 defended passes, two fumble recoveries and 50 quarterback hits.
But most of that production, sack-wise, started in year four, his last in Arizona.
What changed that the Cardinals line him up as a true edge rusher?
“I had done it well in college,” said Reddick, referring to his 9.5 sack total his senior season with the Owls. “Spending three years, four years in college working on rushing the passer; it’s something that’s natural to me. Basically that was it. I got to go back to a position where I was asked to do things I was more comfortable with. It made it that much better for me. I got re-excited about playing football.”
Reddick said he is weighing in at 242 pounds right now. The 6-foot-1 former First Team All-American Athletic Conference defensive end said last week He would like to add a few pounds to his frame.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Reddick said. “I said I wanted to get up to about 250 pounds. I’m going to see how I move around with that weight. I am still figuring out what the perfect weight to play at is for me. I still want to keep my speed, my bend. Those are assets to my game that help me be as successful as I am. I am going to work to keep those things in my game as well.
“I wanted to open up my rush plan a little bit more,” Reddick added. “And be able to move guys out of my way at my will, whenever I wanted to.”
A TRUSTED VOICE FROM REDDICKS’ PAST AGREED
Reddick was a pupil of the much-respected training expert Chad Hallett of Adrenaline Sports Performance & Personal Training in Cherry Hill.
Hallett said he started working with him at a very early age.
“I started training Haason when he was in seventh grade,” Hallett said with a smile. “And we went all the way up to his college years. After Temple he came home and did a couple of sessions. Then he got drafted.
“We’re only talking the difference of a couple pounds,” Hallett said of Reddick’s plans to gain weight. “If he can maintain his speed, the extra weight is only going to help him. I mean he’s going against 300-pound-plus guys. He’s an athlete, he’s quick. If it’s muscle, quality muscle…it’s not going to slow him down”
SIZE DOES NOT MATTER FOR REDDICK
When his lack of height was brought up, he bristled.
“I’m faster than traditional pass rushers,” Reddick said. “I have an underdog mentality, I’m a hard worker. At the end of the day size doesn’t matter to me. Just line them up in front of me and I’m going to do the best I can to beat them.
“Rushing against NFL tackles is different than rushing in college. While I have been able to have success, I’m still growing in this thing. I’m really just getting started. I really don’t think I’ve tapped into a lot of my potential yet.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been rushing, I’ve been dropping back (into coverage)…it’s been my versatility. I’m a fast guy. Just get me on the field and let me go play football. At the end of the day I’m a football player. Just get me on the field and let me go play football.” *
Email Al Thompson at email@example.com