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Eagles' Jenkins planning protest gesture during national anthem

CHICAGO - Sunday, three Miami Dolphins protested during the national anthem before their game at New England, as five San Francisco 49ers joined quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his protest at Carolina and a pair of Tennessee Titans raised their fists before playing in Detroit. In Denver, linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee for the second week in a row.

CHICAGO - Sunday, three Miami Dolphins protested during the national anthem before their game at New England, as five San Francisco 49ers joined quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his protest at Carolina and a pair of Tennessee Titans raised their fists before playing in Detroit. In Denver, linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee for the second week in a row.

Monday night, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins plans to add his name to the protest narrative Kaepernick started last month, Jenkins planning some sort of gesture when the anthem is played before the Bears host the Birds, the Eagles' defensive leader said over the weekend. It's unclear what Jenkins plans to do - he said Saturday he hadn't decided - or if teammates will join him.

In the team's last locker room media session of the week on Saturday, two things were clear: Jenkins has strong feelings about seizing the opportunity to protest racism and inequality, and most of his teammates don't feel anywhere near as committed.

Earlier, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he would welcome and join in a gesture that showed team unity, like locking arms, but Jenkins acknowledged that wasn't happening.

"It definitely won't be the whole team," said Jenkins, who acknowledged "a lot of mixed feelings" on the team.

"I'm just in the middle, man, just sittin' here letting everybody express themselves," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "Everybody has a right to protest and do what they feel. For me, I'm going to just stay neutral and continue to keep working hard and focus on this year and football . . . Just trying not to let it be a distraction (from) what's the real common goal for this year."

In this week's Sports Illustrated, Jenkins is identified as the initiator of a group text on the topic among several NFL veterans, near the end of the preseason, that swelled to more than 70 players across the league by the next week.

"There's no comfortable way to change anything," Jenkins said after practice Saturday. "If somebody gets upset, then it's probably because they're not listening" to the reasons for the protest, which Jenkins said is not "anti-police" and has "nothing to do with the military, nothing to do with the flag itself."

On social media, many fans seem not to have gotten that message. Jenkins happened to disclose his plan to join the protest on a Friday evening 94 WIP radio appearance, hours before two police officers were wounded in a West Philly shooting rampage. Jenkins was criticized for bringing up such a subject - part of the protest message has to do with how African-Americans are treated by police - at a time when anti-police sentiment seems to be fueling violence against law officers.

"If you listen, the message has been the same across the board," in the various protests that have followed Kaepernick's decision to sit during the anthem, Jenkins said. "The police are a key part of the solution, in this issue, across the nation."

People getting upset is "what makes you guys put these cameras in my face. That's what keeps this conversation going. Sometimes you gotta rock the boat to get a little bit of change," Jenkins said.

Pederson and Jenkins spoke before Jenkins went public.

"Malcolm, he's a class act all the way. He does a lot of things in the community here, he speaks out on a lot of things. He's a great teammate and a great leader of this football team. I just appreciate him coming to me first and letting me know," Pederson said.

Pederson said he thinks the protests will become part of the fabric of the 2016 season. He said his main concern is that they not become a distraction.

Jenkins said he, too, wants to avoid distracting his team from the goal of beating the Bears Monday night, but "at the same time, you can't ignore" what's going on in the country. "You can talk about real issues and real topics and still focus on the game," Jenkins said. He said last Sunday's 15th anniversary 9/11 remembrance could also have been viewed as a distraction, but it was a necessary one.

Birdseed.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, who underwent arthroscopic surgery four weeks ago, is questionable for the game . . . The Eagles will be without tight end Zach Ertz (displaced rib) and starting corner Leodis McKelvin (hamstring). Ron Brooks will start for McKelvin, but Brooks will move inside in nickel, with rookie Jalen Mills outside. The Eagles go into the game with just three healthy corners, but Malcolm Jenkins, Jaylen Watkins and Rodney McLeod all have corner experience. Trey Burton seems poised to get a lot of Ertz's snaps.

@LesBowen

Blog: philly.com/Eaglesblog

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