Eagles blood runs in two Colts

Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, above, is from Glassboro and grew up an Eagles fan. DL Raheem Brock, below, going after Patriots QB Matt Cassell, is a product of Dobbins and Temple.
Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, above, is from Glassboro and grew up an Eagles fan. DL Raheem Brock, below, going after Patriots QB Matt Cassell, is a product of Dobbins and Temple.
Posted: January 24, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - At the moment, Gary Brackett and Raheem Brock are thinking about the New York Jets and envisioning another trip to a Super Bowl in Miami.

A second NFL title is within the grasp of each man, both of whom have squashed long odds to become vital parts of an underrated Indianapolis Colts defense.

Six weeks from now, the focus could be on life after the Colts for each man.

Brackett, 29, is in the final season of a four-year deal, and the middle linebacker who grew up an Eagles fan in Glassboro didn't deny that the idea of playing for his hometown team has crossed his mind.

"That would be great to have an opportunity to go home and play in front of my hometown fans for the team I grew up loving," Brackett said after the Colts' practice Friday in preparation for today's AFC championship game against the Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium. "It will be interesting to see what happens. Right now, I'm focused on this playoff run, and I would love to stay with the Colts. I think I fit this system well."

Brock, 31, has one year left on a five-year deal he signed with the Colts in 2006, but he is scheduled to be paid $3.79 million next season, which may be too steep a price since his role on the defensive line has been slightly reduced this season.

Like Brackett, Brock said he has thought about wearing an Eagles uniform, although he couldn't stop himself from laughing when asked about it.

"I think about it," the veteran defensive lineman said. "I do think about it."

Brock, of course, has worn an Eagles uniform, albeit never in an actual game. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2002, pride of Dobbins Tech and Temple University, released on the eve of his scheduled reporting date to training camp because the Eagles didn't have enough money in their rookie salary-cap pool to give him a market-value signing bonus.

"Very high, then very low," Brock said when asked to describe his feelings from that day. "I was excited to go to camp and then to get that call, it was kind of heartbreaking."

His heart and his bank account have mended quite nicely in the eight seasons since.

"It has been great," Brock said. "We've made a lot of history here - won a Super Bowl. I've played with some Hall of Fame guys – the quarterback, Peyton [Manning] - and the way this offense has been. That's different than from when I was at Temple. We didn't have great teams, so then to come here and play on a team like this, it's incredible."

The Colts signed Brock almost immediately after the Eagles released him, and by the end of his rookie season he had started six games at defensive end. Since then, he has been a mainstay on the Colts' defensive line, alternating between tackle and end while starting 104 games. That contract he signed in 2006 was worth $23.6 million and included an $8 million signing bonus.

For the record, the Eagles offered Brock a $26,000 signing bonus as a rookie and he wanted $29,000.

This is a classic quote from his agent George Mavrikes the day he was released: "The Eagles will look bad if one of two things happen: if Raheem turns out to be a player at a position that's hard to find good players, or if one of the Eagles' defensive linemen gets injured."

Eight years later, the Brock case still looks bad, but with one Super Bowl ring already in his jewelry collection - he was a member of the 2006-07 Colts team that beat the Chicago Bears in Miami - and the potential for a second one just two victories away, the proud Temple alum has long since forgiven the Eagles.

"I try to make it go away because it's so, so old," said Brock, whose father, Zachary Dixon, was part of the Eagles' 1980-81 Super Bowl team. "I don't have any hard feelings. They have a great team and I know some of their guys."

Brock, who still lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, said he is friends with several current and former Eagles players, including Donovan McNabb and Hugh Douglas.

"I want them to do good despite what happened in the past," he said. "I would have loved to play against them in the Super Bowl. I always want them to do good until they play against us."

If the Eagles decide to target Brackett in free agency, Brock said they would be getting a special player.

"Gary is like a coach on the field," Brock said. "He's a smart player, a great player. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves."

Brackett has never received the credit he deserves. He was a walk-on as a freshman at Rutgers who had to earn a scholarship, then was signed by the Colts as an undrafted rookie in 2003, the same year the Eagles took another Rutgers product – tight end L.J. Smith – in the second round.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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