Every year there are a handful of Eagles’ players who skip the voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) and 2017 is no different, as Fletcher Cox, Donnie Jones and Jason Peters all have been granted permission from head coach Doug Pederson to skip the first official opportunity for the offense to face the defense ahead of the upcoming season.
Though Pederson was unwilling to provide more information than just “personal reasons,” he seemed respectful but displeased in front of the media Tuesday before practice, particularly at the absence of Cox.
“The reason is satisfactory but it is a voluntary program,” Pederson said. “I would love for everybody to be here, that’s just me personally and I know it’s not always going to work out that way.”
Cox is the highest paid Eagles player and has turned into a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber pass-rusher on the Eagles’ loaded front seven. Just his presence on the field alone is enough to provide the edge the Birds defense often needs to distract opposing quarterbacks. He has combined for 16 sacks over the last two seasons and landed a mega-contract last offseason.
“Fletcher’s one of the leaders on the football team,” Pederson said. “Guys like that, you do expect to be here. I get the rules. We abide by the rules. He’s one of the guys, too, that at the end of the day, I’m going to hang my hat on and go to war with.”
Without knowing the exact circumstances of his absence from OTAs it’s hard to criticize his decision not to lace up his cleats, but ahead of his contract extension last season Cox also failed to show up until media and fan pressure seemed to convince him to start working with the team a few weeks into OTAs. That sort of pressure might not follow Cox this offseason, as it is clear he is not holding out for a contract — according to ESPN’s Tim McManus Cox is expected to return to the team next week and is simply spending time with family.