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Former Eagles Baskett, Eckel doing Super these days

MIAMI - Less than 6 months ago, Hank Baskett and Kyle Eckel envisioned playing in Super Bowl XLIV for the Eagles.

Hank Baskett made it to the Super Bowl as a member of the Colts. (Eric Gay/AP file photo)
Hank Baskett made it to the Super Bowl as a member of the Colts. (Eric Gay/AP file photo)Read more

MIAMI - Less than 6 months ago, Hank Baskett and Kyle Eckel envisioned playing in Super Bowl XLIV for the Eagles.

They're both here, but fate has taken a few twists. Baskett wore his blue No. 81 Colts jersey to Media Day yesterday; Eckel wore his white Saints No. 36.

"Experiences and life lessons," said Eckel, currently serving his second stint as a New Orleans fullback, after being cut coming out of training camp by the Birds. "It's been interesting . . . it's been a wild ride."

"Things happen in a strange way," agreed Baskett, who was 1 week into his fourth season with the Eagles when he was cut to help clear roster space for Michael Vick. Baskett had caught a pass, for 6 yards, in the opener, being activated ahead of fellow wideout Reggie Brown, but the cap penalty for cutting Brown made Baskett more expendable.

Baskett looks exactly as he did as an Eagle, though he's wearing a different-colored jersey. Eckel sports a bushy, Yosemite Sam-level facial hair, which he said has evolved into a playoff superstition. Both said they chat sometimes with former Eagles teammates; Eckel, of course, grew up an Eagles fan in Delaware County.

One of Baskett's best friends on the Birds was Donovan McNabb. Having found an alternate path to the Super Bowl himself, does Baskett think McNabb would benefit from a change of scenery?

"Maybe next year, but not right now," Baskett said. "I believe what he said the other day [about unfinished business]. He doesn't want to be seen as walking out on his guys."

Once he got over the shock of having his life disrupted, Baskett found being picked up by the Colts wasn't a bad gig. His primary role is on the kickoff return team, as a blocker. He caught just four passes for Indianapolis.

"It was crazy, coming in . . . Indy's known for having one of the toughest offenses in the NFL. That's a lot to learn," Baskett said. "Plus, you've got Peyton Manning back there. Like I learned very quick watching, if you mess up, he lets you know. That's what's great about Peyton - he's going to make the people around him great."

Obviously, the comparison with McNabb tilts in Manning's favor; he seems to be building a case as the NFL's best-ever.

"They're both great quarterbacks. They have different games," Baskett said. "Both of them are hard workers off the field. Both guys want to win, and they want to make the guys around them better.

"Best-ever is a great category to put Peyton in. We're sitting in meetings, they're like, 'Peyton accomplished this milestone, Peyton accomplished that milestone.' I'm like, 'Damn.' How do you have 50,000 passing yards? That's just incredible. When he retires, he's going to be the best ever."

Baskett and his wife Kendra Wilkinson, a former Playmate, welcomed Hank IV (actually, Henry IV, but they call him Hank) 7 weeks ago. The whole family is in Florida this week for the Super Bowl.

"She's loving it [in Indy]," Baskett said of his wife. "She likes the laid-back, friendly environment. She's never been in a place where you can look out your window and see snow every day."

Hank and Kendra's lives have been chronicled on a reality show. Hank said the toughest thing, which Kendra taught him, was to just go about what he was doing, to not be constantly talking into the camera.

Eckel, meanwhile, was signed by New Orleans Oct. 29, was cut Dec. 8, after playing in five games, then returned to the roster Dec. 22, after fullback Marcus Mailei, who'd been signed off the Eagles' practice squad, went down with an injury.

"I was worried, like I always am," said Eckel, who has bounced from the Patriots to the Dolphins back to the Pats, then to the Eagles and now to the Saints, over the past 5 years. "Coach [Sean] Payton said, 'I can't promise anything, but you might end up back here.' "

Eckel said he hung out in Boston, concentrated on staying in shape. Now, a little more than a month after returning to the Saints, he's a game away from a Super Bowl ring.

"So far so good. Hopefully, these next few days are without any problems, and everything goes according to plan," Eckel said.

As a native, Eckel knows and appreciates the Philly vibe. He said there's a "fresh excitement" playing for a fan base that is giddy just to get to the Super Bowl, for the first time in the 43-year history of the franchise.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at