Despite struggles, these Eagles haven't quit

RON CORTES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nnamdi Asomugha (left) andDominique Rodgers-Cromartie may be struggling, but they're not quitters.
RON CORTES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nnamdi Asomugha (left) andDominique Rodgers-Cromartie may be struggling, but they're not quitters.
Posted: November 21, 2012

DOMINIQUE Rodgers-Cromartie might not be a man of letters, but he is a man of the world. He peers through orange glasses, his fashion sense and his common sense unclouded by pesky lenses. He observes, and he reports.

Sunday evening, DRC's geek-chic getup belied his frankness:

"I've seen it many times in this league: Guys pull themselves out for personal reasons. They don't want to get hurt, or whatever. You see them go on the field, their heads down, saying, 'Aw, [shoot], here we go.' "

The Eagles had just suffered their sixth loss in a row, their worst run under Andy Reid. While other, less courageous teammates declined to assess the state of the club until after Monday's postgame review sessions, DRC knew what he had seen:

A team with talent in pockets, undone by its bad play.

He also knew what he hadn't seen:

Quitters.

"We're still playing hard," he insisted.

The Eagles are 3-7, but the roster is full of players with their futures in question.

DRC is one.

In his second year with the Eagles, DRC spent his first three NFL seasons in the NFC West, where he watched the Rams win 10 games in those three seasons combined. He knows what a quitter smells like.

So far, with the Eagles, his olfactory faculties remain unoffended.

For a team with such abysmal results, the effort does, indeed, appear to be present.

DeMeco Ryans spent his first six seasons in the lousy AFC South, where quitting is a ritual, like hand fishing. The Eagles imported Ryans to lead its defense this season. His play and his leadership have, for the most part, been adequate; his evaluation carries weight, too.

"I think the effort and focus is there," Ryans said. "You play for pride. Nobody's going to lay down, saying it's over. That's why we work hard: to get wins."

And, to get paid. Not necessarily in that order.

It is, after all, a job.

"You're playing to continue playing this game," defensive tackle Mike Patterson said. "And you want to stay here. The number of wins and losses - you can't control that. There's one thing, as a player, you can control: Go out there and give it all you've got."

Patterson is an excellent example. He missed the first seven games recovering from brain surgery. Not only must Patterson prove himself capable of contributing after eight grueling seasons, he must convince the league's scouts that his head won't crack open.

It's a tough impression to make, but that is what this season has come to.

Ryans would be a cap hit of about $1 million, a modest hit among players such as quarterback Michael Vick ($4.2 million), end Jason Babin ($600,000) and tight end Brent Celek ($1.2 million) and guard Danny Watkins ($1.2 million). Players such as Nnamdi Asomugha and Patterson could be released without cap implications.

So, as the pile of losses grows like cordwood outside a forest of deadfalls, hope, certainly, is lost, but not heart. Not yet, anyway.

Who is going to quit?

Every season, on bad teams, in every sport, players quit. In no sport is it as obvious as in football, the game that best mirrors our short and brutish lives.

Tacklers avoid the pile; they slow their pursuit, take impossible angles and watch the play fly past. Receivers suddenly cannot shake free; the suicidal space between the hash marks becomes the Bermuda Triangle.

Running backs tiptoe to the line, then hesitate, head-fake, and crumple.

Blockers wait for targets to reach them; then, with perfunctory effort, they execute the mechanics of a block, if not its spirit.

Fatigue engulfs all players; malaise, even.

Nagging injuries grow unbearable; the trainer's room is like a deli on Saturday afternoon - you take a number.

What you don't see is even more insidious.

The mind wanders in strategy meetings. The brain slows during film sessions. All of a sudden, players aren't on the field when they are needed; or, they remain on the field when they are not supposed to be there.

Fear of injury creeps in. The old lions quiver at the thought of that final straw, the one that will leave their back permanently bowed.

The young worry their careers will be truncated. Why waste yourself? Injury in pursuit of nothing is an abomination, isn't it?

Still, almost no Eagle has any room to fail this audition. In all likelihood, assuming Big Red gets fired, Howie Roseman likely will remain as general manager. Big Howie is always watching.

Whatever coach succeeds Reid will submit to Roseman's evaluations and will value Reid's assessments: Reid is nothing if not a fair and harsh judge.

So, who is going to quit? Guard Evan Mathis could, but he doesn't seem the type. None of the other linemen can afford to spit in the face of this chance.

LeSean McCoy, the franchise back from now on, absorbed a concussion in the fourth quarter of a blowout Sunday. Quitters don't get concussed.

Receiver DeSean Jackson quit some last season, but now, well-paid, seems intent on making that a memory.

Everyone on the defensive line has something to lose except Trent Cole, and anyone who questions his intensity has never looked into his strange amber eyes.

DRC is in a contract year, so he is committed. The young safeties suffer from a lingering Brian Dawkins hangover - as in, they are not Brian Dawkins - so they are never too comfortable.

Tight end Brent Celek? He said Sunday he made himself sick dropping two balls.

Teams have quit on Reid before. At 5-6 in 2005, the Birds lost four of five down the stretch.

Patterson was a rookie that season. Asked Sunday whether he remembers seeing teammates throttle back, he smiled knowingly and slipped into his best political rhetoric.

"I . . . doubt it. You rarely see players go out and give up on plays," Patterson said, beaming with a leave-me-alone smile. "It's hard to say."

Hard to say.

Easy to see.

Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

Columns: philly.com/MarcusHayes

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