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John Smallwood | Bottom line, Lurie says he has team's best interests at heart

CLEARLY, something is there. Things might not be as bad as some make it out to be, but it isn't just radio fodder fueled by an extremely vocal minority.

CLEARLY, something is there.

Things might not be as bad as some make it out to be, but it isn't just radio fodder fueled by an extremely vocal minority.

How much disconnect there truly is between Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Eagle fans is hard to gauge, but there is no question some exists - even if Lurie hesitates to acknowledge it.

"I think criticism is something that just comes with owning one of the 32 NFL teams," Lurie said yesterday after a news conference announcing plans for the Eagles' 75th-season celebration. "But I feel so warmly welcomed here in every single way possible from the very beginning.

"I love owning the team here. I feel embraced in every way imaginable, and I couldn't be more proud than owning a team where football is so passionate and [the fans] love everything about the sport and this franchise."

Well, almost everything.

There is no denying that Lurie, despite the Eagles' success during his ownership, is not universally adored in Eagles Nation.

Despite eight playoff appearances, five NFC East titles, four NFC Championship Game appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in his 13 seasons as owner, some fans would have you believe Lurie has dragged this franchise into an outhouse.

Ownership has brought some of that on itself.

Where some view Lurie as the steward of a Philadelphia fabric of life, there have been times when he's left no confusion that he owns a billion-dollar business.

A lot of unforgotten and unforgiven anger stems from his drive to get the crumbling, but beloved Veterans Stadium torn down and the hardball he played with the city and state for financial assistance to build Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex.

Seat licenses, changes in policies on bringing in food and decisions viewed as more about finances than football irked the blue-collar mentality of some of the Philly fan base.

"You know you're not trying at all times to make popular decisions," Lurie said. "You're just trying to make the best decisions you can for the franchise, whether it's picking a coach, going the way of franchise quarterback, building a stadium where you built it or how you built it. Those are the kind of things that open debate."

Still, some issues are less tangible and seem to revolve around the fact that Lurie is from New England and not the Delaware Valley.

And, of course, there's also that small issue that the owner who said he was about "multiple" Super Bowl championships has yet to deliver one.

"Yes, we all want to win a championship going forward, starting with one," Lurie said. "That will be a big highlight. This is a region that loves football. We all want to take it one more level."

Perhaps Lurie just isn't good at presenting his message to fans, because when you listen to the guy it is clear he understands and appreciates his franchise's importance to this city.

"We will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Philadelphia Eagles this upcoming season," Lurie said. "That also means it's the 75th anniversary of the Eagles in the city of Philadelphia and maybe most importantly, it's the 75th anniversary of passion-pounding excitement, support and enthusiasm from the best fans in America.

"And that, I think, defines this franchise more than anything else."

Lurie might not speak Philadelphia lingo. He might not come across as a "Philadelphian." He might not even deliver that Super Bowl title this city desperately salivates for.

But Lurie does understand what it means to own the Philadelphia Eagles.

"You know we're the only franchise in the NFC East or AFC East that plays and practices in its city," Lurie said. "I've always felt that a big, big part of who we are is [being] a city franchise. We are honored to be a part of Philadelphia.

"The Eagles have meant so much to the city of Philadelphia and vice versa. I feel like I have played a very, very small part in all of that history.

"It's much more about the generations after generations of Philadelphians who have had an experience with this franchise, with this sport and with their passion for this team over 75 years." *

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