The text messages buzzed across Sheldon Brown's phone with regularity. Troy Vincent can be relentless.
This is going to be a long three weeks for you, sleepless nights and monitoring the airwaves listening to reports, etc. It's in God's hands.
That was Monday. Brown laughed. "That's Troy," he said, scoffing at the notion that he monitors any airwaves or reads any clips. But if Brown did - and let's face it, he probably does - he surely would hear that many people believe Brown is having his best season as a pro, one worthy of a Pro Bowl nomination and an all-pro nod. He's been that good.
Numbers aren't everything, especially where a cornerback is concerned. Vincent maintains that his best year as an Eagle was his first, although the numbers don't corroborate it because teams constantly threw away from, not at, Vincent. That happens to Brown, too. Plus, he doesn't gamble as does his teammate on the other side, Asante Samuel.
And yet Brown's got the numbers this season: five interceptions, which are tied for fifth in the NFC and a career high; defensive touchdowns against Atlanta and the New York Giants; and 13 more starts, including a couple with a torn hamstring, bringing his streak of consecutive games to 137. Samuel leads all NFC cornerbacks in fan voting for the Pro Bowl. Brown should be right behind him.
The accolades matter to Brown, 30, who has always played with a flashier teammate garnering the spotlight and, to an extent, overshadowing his success. It used to be Brown's best friend, Lito Sheppard. For the last two seasons, it's been Samuel. Those players have been to the Pro Bowl - Samuel went the last two years - while Brown has never been there.
The Pro Bowl vote comes from fans, coaches, and players.
"I'm a big believer if you do things the right way and you keep your body and believe, then everything will pay off in the long run for you," Brown said. "You may not see it in the short future, but over time it will pay off for you. I believe it.
"I've always taken the backseat to everybody. I've never had to be the hot rod. It's just, I just like people and I like to demand respect from people I feel know the truth, and when you don't feel that, sometimes you do get frustrated because you feel like at that point you worked for no reason."
It goes back to Brown's feeling underappreciated by the organization, specifically by Joe Banner, who negotiates the players' contracts. Brown signed an extension early in his career, opting for the security of a long-term deal rather than taking a risk and waiting for a big-time payday, which is what Samuel did. Brown feels that he has outplayed his extension and the Eagles should redo his deal, which, not surprisingly, they refuse to do.
When he showed up for pregame introductions earlier this season wearing a mask like the character Jason did in the Friday the 13th movies, Brown was making a statement to the organization. The symbolism was perfect, he thought. "I keep coming back," he said. "You can't kill me."
The NFL fined Brown $10,000 for his wardrobe violation, but Brown didn't care. To him, delivering the message was worth the dollars. If the organization cared, and presumably it did, it didn't show it in any tangible way. Brown started the next game, as usual.
Undoubtedly, it would be shortsighted to pull the stunt again and annoy the people who control his future. But that didn't seem to concern Brown, who said he might break out the mask again "at a critical time."
"When we were going through our situation and people tell you like you're not good, you just wonder sometimes, 'Why am I still here?' " Brown said. "Is that really the truth? Everybody talks about numbers. Well, the numbers don't lie. Look at the numbers."
Clearly, Brown is still angry with management - "I think they'll try to do the right thing and trade me this off-season," he said - but he plays for himself and his teammates. When a Brandon Jacobs fumble bounced into his hands last week and he was streaking 60 yards for a touchdown, Brown was thinking, "Just pinch me." It was his second score in two weeks.
"I guess it was eight years of hard work paying off," Brown said.
He got another text from Vincent after the game: Keep pushing. Brown plans to, and that might push him over the proverbial hump and into the Pro Bowl.