Cole: '11 Birds 'inches away from being great'

Posted: February 08, 2012

HARRISBURG - The Eagles fan leaned in close, as defensive end Trent Cole signed T-shirts for charity and promoted his hunting enterprises in the Lancaster Archery booth at the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show, the largest such event in North America. Racks of camouflage clothing, acres of unusual taxidermy and bins of deer jerky seemingly stretched to the horizon in each direction.

"If you get Eli down, could you just give his neck a little extra twist for me?" the man asked. Cole chuckled, but did not commit.

At about the same time yesterday, 175 miles to the northeast of the outdoor show, quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants were parading in celebration of their second Super Bowl championship in the last five seasons. This obviously was weighing on the mind of the fan, and it wasn't that easy for Cole to swallow, either.

Giants fans passed the booth at a surprising rate, given that Cole was standing in the middle of Pennsylvania. Considering their team had won Super Bowl XLVI less than 48 hours earlier, and the NFC East rival Eagles hadn't made the playoffs, the blue-clad New York followers weren't too obnoxious. Then again, they were addressing a 270-pound, two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher separated from them only by a folding table, not some dumpy fellow fan in midnight green.

"They didn't stop. They finished strong, and that's what it's all about," Cole said, when asked his thoughts on the Giants. "I kind of knew, if the Giants' defense came to play, it was going to be a game . . . We finished strong as well, but it didn't work out [to make the playoffs]."

Cole acknowledged he'd been pulling for the Patriots, that a New England victory wouldn't have stung quite as much as seeing the Lombardi Trophy go to a team from the division, a team the Eagles beat at MetLife Stadium back on Nov. 20, 7 days before the Birds were crushed at the Linc by the Pats.

"It's hard [to see them win again, with the Eagles still having never won the Super Bowl]. They're too close to home. But you've got to give it to them," Cole said. "Eli did a great job. That's two Super Bowls he's won, against a great team. There's nothing you can say.

"We had a bad year. We just couldn't pull it off at the last minute. Andy's a great coach . . . We were right there, inches away from being great, being a dominant, dominant team. I think some teams are going to be worried about playing us" in 2012.

Cole, an Eagle since 2005, said he is glad to see Andy Reid back for a 14th season, glad to see defensive coordinator Juan Castillo get a second chance, glad defensive line coach Jim Washburn and the wide-nine didn't get swept away in a tidal wave of disappointment over missing the playoffs.

"I think it's a great choice," he said, when asked about Castillo. "Numbers don't lie, and we put up some great numbers."

Actually, some of the 2011 numbers were great - the Eagles tied for best in the NFL with 50 in sacks, and were eighth in fewest points allowed - but others weren't. The Birds gave up 27 touchdown passes, which ranked 24th, and they were 30th in red-zone defense.

There was talk that Reid's efforts to bring in someone experienced to augment Castillo might have been stymied by reluctance to work with Washburn and his nine-technique approach. Cole said he feels Washburn's ideas are sound.

"If you can feed into [Washburn's] teachings, you'll do well," he said. "You've got to believe in what he teaches . . . Come off hard, fast. When you come out of your stance, be an eruption."

Almost as many people filing past the booth wanted to discuss hunting as were interested in football. Cole, who grew up as a hunter in rural Xenia, Ohio, has a show available on DIRECTV, in which, he says, "ordinary, everyday working people" go hunting, mostly for whitetail deer "because that's the toughest game to hunt in North America." He is selling DVDs at the show, but also is selling autographed T-shirts emblazoned with his "Blitz TV" logo, at $10 a pop, proceeds to benefit the Philadelphia version of Camp Compass Academy, which introduces inner-city kids to the outdoors. Cole is scheduled to be at the booth again today, from 10 to 4.

Hunting, Cole said, is "a calm place where all the BS stops, and you can enjoy yourself with your friends and family."

He said he pursues all types of hunting but prefers bowhunting because getting off a good shot with a bow is more challenging than squeezing the trigger of a gun.

"You've got an intricate machine in your hand, with a lot of bells and whistles," he said. "When that moment of truth comes and that game comes up on you, everything's got to be right. You've got to really focus . . . It's just like football, it's all repetition."

Hundreds of people streamed past Cole in an hour or so around lunchtime yesterday. Maybe a couple were African-American. This is something he sees, but doesn't find remarkable. Cole hunts because of where he grew up, because his stepfather and his uncle took him hunting, and he enjoyed it. He talks to African-American teammates about coming out with him sometime, but when he lists the guys on the team who actually hunt - Jason Babin, Riley Cooper, Owen Schmitt - well, there's one thing those guys have in common.

"If you like hunting, you like hunting," Cole said. "I don't see color."

His favorite outing was in Montana. He got two turkeys, with a bow, and lined up a few bears in his sights but decided to let them grow bigger, he said. "You pass on the small ones, create trophies for yourself for the future."

Cole likes outdoors shows in the offseason, he said. He finds most hunters like to talk football, as well. Yesterday, someone mentioned to him that it's unfortunate hunting season and football season overlap. Cole said he finds ways to steal moments here and there, eagerly awaits the bye week.

He is excited, he said, that the LodgeNet TV system used in hotels where the Eagles stay has picked up his hunting show.

"I'll be able to get me some hunting action in before the game," he said.

Birdseed

Two moves reported earlier became official yesterday - the Eagles announced they have acquired offensive tackle D.J. Jones on waivers from the Ravens, and Keith Gray, from the University of Georgia, was named assistant strength and conditioning coach.


For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/LesBowen.

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