June 3, 2024   6 MIN READ

‘Don’t Come Home’

Ross Fulfilled Tryout Vow, Now Hopes To Make 53


PHILADELPHIA – When new Eagles wide receiver John Ross boarded a plane headed here ahead of a two-week stint of OTA practices in late May, the 28-year-old told himself, ‘Don’t come home.’

The No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the turbo-charged Ross has been afforded a new lease on life with the Eagles, returning from a retirement that lasted less than 10 months.

It could prove to be the final opportunity to rescue a career that failed to live up to the expectations that accompany being a top-10 selection.

Ross, then a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, abruptly retired on July 26, 2023, before expressing his desire to pursue a comeback in late November.

Due to a shortage at wide receiver, Ross officially signed with the Eagles on May 23 after initially participating in rookie minicamp weeks earlier on a tryout basis.

“I never wanted to leave football,” Ross admitted Thursday. “I think I was just at a point in my life where I had a lot going on. But literally, the day I retired, I knew it was a mistake.

“But I think when you go through so much in life, and you can only control so much, you get to a place mentally and physically, from what I’ve been dealing with and what I’ve dealt with. It was tough.

“But in my heart, I know who I am. I immediately started to coach; I coached my son. So, I was always in it. I knew it was a mistake, but where I am now, I feel I’m in a much better place mentally, physically and even spiritually. So, I’m actually thankful it happened.”

John Ross

GETTY IMAGES: After a retirement he said was a mistake, former top-10 pick John Ross hopes to rescue his career with the Eagles.

When Ross asked his seven-year-old son, Kyrie, for his preferences of prospective tryout teams, Kyrie’s first choice was the Baltimore Ravens because of his affinity for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Coming in second, however, was the Eagles, to the satisfaction of Ross, who grew up an Eagles fan. According to Ross, he knew he should be in Philadelphia.

At the podium, Ross talked of the internal conflicts and mental hurdles he had overcome by virtue of Kyrie, whom he had spent each day with during retirement.

Ross said quality time with his son changed his life, brought a new perspective, alleviated concerns and reminded him that everything is in front of him.

The litany of injuries Ross accrued over the years – to his knee, shoulder and foot – directly contributed to Ross’ bleak and subdued mindset.

Not to mention the stifling pressure of fulfilling the demands and making good on the organizational investment of being a high first-rounder.

The world-class speed that vaulted his draft stock and was widely expected to propel Ross to stardom never manifested, as Ross appeared in just 37 games (21 starts) in five seasons.

So far, his resume includes a modest 62 receptions for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns.

But in the midst of his pathway back to the NFL, Ross initiated a revival of sorts, flipping the script by rebuilding his psyche and fixating on changing his mentality.

“I got this little boy inspiring me every day through him,” Ross said of Kyrie. “Watching him play football, and him learn. And me teach him. And I used to feel bad because I used to get on him so much, and I used to be like, ‘I should be getting on myself, because I could see me in him.’

“I can honestly say he pulled me out of a bad place. And again, I’m very thankful.”

Kyrie is Ross’ biggest fan, phoning him daily for a practice report, ever-invested in his father’s latest endeavor.

For Ross, Kyrie is his primary source of inspiration.

“That really keeps me in it,” Ross said. “I’m already in it for myself. I wake up every day happy; I could wake up at three in the morning and I’ll smile, because I’m like, ‘I’m really in Philly.'”

On the NovaCare Complex practice field, it was apparent Ross still has the juice to take the top off a defense.

In repping with the second team, Ross in one instance got behind the secondary, though the pass was woefully under-thrown and snared instead by safety Mekhi Garner.

On another occasion, Ross reeled in an errant throw for a decent gain.

Once a tryout hopeful, and now a reclamation project, Ross finds himself in arguably the most advantageous of circumstances in a top-heavy receiver room.

Through health and consistency, Ross will have an outside shot at earning a roster spot, as the depth chart beyond starters A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith is largely fluid and uncertain.

Right now, though, Ross is focused on the moment, intent on showcasing the best version of himself to the Eagles.

If he can do that, he won’t be going home.

“I haven’t lost a step,” Ross said of what he hopes to exhibit. “I’m still the same guy. I feel like I’m better than what I was, just because of where I am mentally. I think physically, that was probably my biggest problem. I’ve dealt with so many injuries.

“But I think what was hindering my success was my mental, but because of how I was feeling physically. So, tying all that together, I think it kinda put me in a bad place. But where I am right now, I don’t think I’m in a bad place at all.”

John Ross

GETTY IMAGES: John Ross, whose 4.22 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine is the second-fastest ever at the Combine, believes he’s faster now.

And as for his speed, Ross might not run the blazing 4.22 40-yard dash that once took the NFL Scouting Combine by storm.

But due to a myriad of factors coming together to produce more consistency – notably his physical improvement – Ross actually believes he’s faster.

“I think that was my biggest thing,” Ross said. “Can this guy go every, single day and look the same every, single day? And I feel that I’m getting to the point where I can be consistent with my speed. And to me, that’s the biggest blessing that I could ask for.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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