Jordan Hicks dressed with an eye toward the nearby locker stall of fellow Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham, who stood in the middle of a throng of a dozen or more reporters Wednesday.
Three months ago, the media group would have been split between Bradham and Hicks, with more TV cameras likely focused on Hicks, the Eagles' third-year middle linebacker. But Hicks went down for the season with an Achilles' tear Oct. 23. Bradham is the Eagles' leading tackler heading into the playoffs; Bradham actually took part in Wednesday's bye-week practice, and will be vital to whatever the team can accomplish in the postseason. What he had to say was relevant. Hicks, not so much.
"Very tough. You try to be as much a part of it as you can, but you're limited," Hicks said. "You put in all the work for those games [before the injury] and this moment. You really have to shift your focus [to] being a helper, finding a way to help the team … find your own niche. That's what you've got to do."
Healthy players credit the large group of injured guys with staying involved, providing leadership and guidance. Jason Peters mentors Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Darren Sproles worked with the running backs when the team was on the West Coast, has stayed in touch since. Carson Wentz is in quarterback meetings, and goes out for coin tosses at games, as does injured special teams captain Chris Maragos.
"I think we're all in the same understanding — a lot of guys [who aren't able to play] are leaders on this team. That role doesn't change; you're still a leader," Hicks said. "It's just a matter of how you get your message across and how you lead.
"You come in with a smile on your face every day. You work as hard as you can. You try to stay connected as much as possible. The leadership comes out that way. … Can't complain about it. Can't sit here and mope about it. We're in a freaking great opportunity as a team, and that's what matters."
Hicks said he works from about 9 to 11 each morning rehabbing his injury. He's out of the walking boot now, but still limited in what he can do. So he has plenty of time to be a sounding board.
Across the NovaCare Complex locker room, offensive tackle Will Beatty knows exactly how Hicks feels. Beatty started the first 10 games of the 2011 season for the Giants, before suffering a season-ending detached retina against the Eagles. He watched his teammates go on to win Super XLVI.
"A player, you want to play," Beatty said. "Coaches want to coach, players want to play. Not being able to play because of the injury was really tough. [The Super Bowl victory] was a bittersweet moment. Yeah, I started the season, I contributed, and we all [were part of it,] but [I was] not in the game. As a player, you want to do more. You want to have that feeling."
Beatty, one of seven Eagles with Super Bowl rings, said he doesn't dwell on his Giants memories. He saw action for the first time as an Eagle last Sunday against Dallas. Even if he isn't a starter here, he sees the chance to have a more meaningful role in the winning of a championship than he was able to play six years ago.
"If me contributing in practice is where I'm at, because of the depth chart, that's still more than I got to do at the end last time," he said.
The Eagles wore pads Wednesday, as Doug Pederson mentioned Tuesday, as they worked to get sharper than they were in their final few regular-season games. Sitting out were left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle) and running back Jay Ajayi (knee).