Celek scores praise for team-first attitude

Posted: December 12, 2013

THE OVER/UNDER bettors couldn't have been happy. The fantasy players who have stuck with him this season weren't tickled either. Truth be told, if I was Brent Celek's agent, needing to argue his value through his numbers, I wouldn't have been elated either watching him slide down at the 10-yard line with nothing but snow between him and a touchdown late in Sunday's game.

But if I was Colt Anderson? Alex Henery? Any of the souls who would have had to line up and chase down Jeremy Ross in the slip-sliding snow one more time?

Well, Brent Celek was the No. 1 star of that game.

"Listen, I score then we have to do a kickoff and then the defense has to go out there," Celek said afterward. "Guys can get hurt. It's not a smart move for the team.''

All season long, sometimes on Sundays and almost always on Mondays, Chip Kelly has inserted Celek's name into an answer about something else, usually a big day by another pass catcher, a big run, something in which the veteran tight end's value can be seen via replay, not stat sheet. Early on, it sounded like a coach trying to protect the psyche of a guy struggling to get open. But lately, and especially as you watched Celek help block those big holes for LeSean McCoy on Sunday, the praise seemed not just warranted, but understated.

That doesn't help you if he was one of your fantasy tight ends Sunday. Or if you bet the over. But if you're a fan of the team, and of the game, it sure was neat to see.

Can we even call it exciting? A player in this day of autographing balls in the end zone, giving up glory to protect the health of teammates? On a day in which his other two caught passes amounted to 2 yards of offense?

"I would have scored," McCoy said, refreshingly honest.

And no one would have blamed him, especially on a day in which any success was unduly hard-earned. No one would have blinked, really. Some people in the press box were so confused by it that a few postulated that Celek's move was a taunt, especially when his hand was seen raised at the oncoming defensive back.

In truth, he was explaining that he had no intention of getting up, and needed only to be touched, not trampled.

"This whole deal is a personnel-driven thing, and we've got some really talented guys on the offensive line," Chip Kelly said at his Monday day-after news conference. "We've got a really talented tight end when it comes to blocking. Our receivers had an outstanding game. One of the unsung heroes . . . I don't even think he had a pass thrown to him, was Jason Avant. You watch Avant on LeSean's play where he took the safety back into the free safety, and that's the type of team we are. Jason is on the sideline asking me, can we run the ball my way. I don't know how many wide receivers in this league are asking to have the ball run their way, but I think that's kind of a testament to the team we have right now.''

Sure is. A team that's so fun to watch.

And thanks to veteran guys like Avant, and Celek - who have been through some high highs and low lows - to cheer for too.


On Twitter: @samdonnellon

philly.com/SamDonnellon

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