Golden Tate flew from Detroit to Philadelphia on Tuesday evening with about a dozen Eagles fans connecting home from London. The plane door wasn't even closed when they started to realize that the flight manifest included the Eagles' newest wide receiver, who was acquired via trade earlier that day. Tate saw one passenger saying hello to other passengers, thinking he might be popular in Philadelphia. Turns out, he was just a fan who made new friends at the game. Tate realized just how ardent the support is for the Eagles.
"I can't put into words how excited I am to be a part of such a strong, passionate fan base," Tate said Wednesday in his introductory news conference at the NovaCare Complex.
On the plane, Tate took his seat next to a man who kept peering at his phone and glancing at the former Detroit Lions receiver. When the connection was made that it was, in fact, Tate sitting next to him, they started talking. The fan works for the IRS and told Tate about Philadelphia's wage tax, offering tax advice for the Eagles' road games. That's a new Welcome to Philadelphia moment.
It's not known how long Tate will pay Philadelphia taxes, because of his expiring contract, but he sounded like someone thrilled that the trade landed him with the Eagles. As the trade deadline approached on Tuesday, Tate went to the doctor's office, received a call about a deal he "didn't see coming," and his "mouth dropped a little bit." He had heard trade rumors and knew the Eagles were among the interested teams, but he didn't wrap his head around the idea that he would leave Detroit during the season until he learned of the trade.
Tate doesn't know why the Lions traded him, even though they are still in contention, chalking it up to the business of the NFL. Tate's pending free agency was likely a factor. He comes to the Eagles as an eight-game rental, and he's hoping that it's more.
"I'd love to be here for as long as you all accept me," Tate said. "What I meant by at least the next eight games is I kind of plan on going to the playoffs and playing a few more. … Hopefully it all works out. I want to be here and just know from Day 1, I'm all-in."
The Eagles are "all-in," too, as evidenced by their willingness to surrender a third-round pick to acquire Tate. Never mind that the team is 4-4. Howie Roseman and the team's decision-makers believe they're contenders this season. Adding Tate, a former Pro Bowler, only helps.
"I think the sky's the limit for this organization," Tate said. "We just won a Super Bowl, not even a year ago. We definitely have the pieces. Now's the time to get hot. Going into November with five more division games coming up. … Second [in the NFC East], right there in the mix. … The good teams in the league, they start playing their better football right now. And once December comes, they kind of start playing their best football."
It's too early for Tate to know how the Eagles will use him. He started meeting with the coaching staff on Wednesday. He's thankful this is a bye week, so he can take time digesting the playbook. He didn't think he needed to learn the entire offense by next week's game against the Dallas Cowboys, but he will focus on the details pertinent to him at the beginning.
He likes what he's seen of quarterback Carson Wentz from afar. Tight end Zach Ertz called Tate after the trade and told him that the Eagles have "a bunch of guys who can make plays. We don't care where the ball goes. We just want to win."
Tate said he shares that mindset, although the ball has come his way often in recent seasons. Since Tate signed in Detroit in 2014, he is sixth in the NFL in receptions, eighth in targets, and 10th in receiving yards.
Tate can especially help the Eagles with the yards he gains after the catch. He's No. 1 in the NFL in that category since 2016, with 1,528 yards after the catch, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats. Tate credited his strong legs and background as a running back for that ability. He didn't become a wide receiver until he played at Notre Dame.
"My mom always told me, 'You can't hit what you can't catch'," Tate said. "I don't like to be tackled, so I just try to fight for every yard. I feel like when I get the ball in my hands, there's a chance I can break it and take it; take a 5-yard pass 20 yards, 30 yards – sometimes 80 yards."
When he does that in games, the fans he met on the flight from Detroit will love him – no matter how long he stays in Philadelphia.