The NFL schedule is configured in a way that always has teams battling for a playoff spot just as the holidays come around.
So with the Eagles ready to do battle with Washington, with everything on the line the dayafter Christmas, players have to find a way to work around their football obligations.
“For me, what we did last year and what we think we will do every year is we open gifts early, coaches usually let us have the morning off,” Brandon Graham, who was married fairly recently, said. “We have to be at the hotel the night before the game so I just try to go and donate, do something to give back especially to people less fortunate.
“It is kind of tough because youhave to make sure you get stuff done early. Iam a last minute type guy, with the wife now, my wife has really been on me to get stuff done, so my Christmas shopping got done in November.”
The Birds are playing at home, and in a night game Saturday (at 8:30 p.m. on NFL Network), so that helps things. But with practice and other requirements leading up to gameday, its hard to get away. Luckily, Friday — Christmas Day –is just a walkthrough.
“We’ll adjust, but we don’t practice, train, or meet very long the day before a game,” Chip Kelly said. “So the holiday has fallen on that day, so we’ll just adjust the schedule and give those guys some time to be with their families on Christmas.”
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For players like Mark Sanchez, things are a little different.
“I am in a unique spot, I don’t have awife or kids like a lot of guys do so that’s tougher,” the Birds’ veteran backup quarterback said.”My family understands I am in my seventh year, they know holidaytime is football time.The only time I have reallybeen homefor Thanksgiving and Christmas was the year I got hurt. It’s almost better when you don’t see them because things are going well.”
And though it’s probably not by design, the season of giving and of family togetherness gives NFL players some perspective.
“I think Thanksgiving and Christmas, they give you a goodperspective on things to be thankful for,” Sanchez said,”on your Family and the people you love;it gives you a little extra motivation with them watching all these games and stuff. Nothing really changes. I think our team does a really good job of giving back.”
Every member of the Eagles, whether they are wearing pads, holding a clipboard or working behind the scenes knows they are luckier than most. And helping those in need is important to keep NFL employees level-headed.
“It is a great feeling, it starts with Thanksgiving and leads into Christmas,” Graham said. “To see people light up when you give them a gift, especially when they weren’t planning to get one, it’s an eye opener and lets you know that man, the stuff we worry about, it’s nothing.”