Sage Off The Stage
Now Behind Scenes, Veteran WR Greg Ward Still Helps Lead Birds
Amidst the Eagles’ postgame locker room celebration following their 31-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers that punched their ticket to Glendale, Ariz. – site of Super Bowl LVII – practice squad wide receiver Greg Ward quietly gathered his belongings from his relatively barren locker stall, sporting a wide grin.
The sixth-year veteran, whose transaction log of countless roadblocks and detours could resemble a CVS receipt, had somehow reached the NFL’s pinnacle for the second time in five years.
Merely two seasons had elapsed since Ward led an undermanned Eagles team in receptions and touchdowns, but on this Sunday – and every other game day this season – he watched the NFC Championship rout from the sideline, out of sight, out of mind, essentially a non-entity despite his past success.
Relatively anonymous, Ward eagerly patrolled the home sideline clad in team attire.
But even though the 27-year-old wasn’t moving the chains at Lincoln Financial Field on Sundays, Ward still left an impact.
Sure, his newfound role didn’t garner the luster of bringing 70,000 raucous fans to their feet. Instead, the NovaCare Complex practice field is where his diligence and film study shone through, as he emulated the opposition’s top receiver each week on the scout team.
It’s a responsibility Ward never shied from. And even though the stakes rose significantly over the past month, the veteran wideout unsurprisingly didn’t waver in his approach.
“It was really just working on your game against the best defense in the league,” Ward said after the blowout of the Niners. “Doing all you can to get those guys ready to play, as well as getting yourself better.
“It was pretty fun. But you know, I was here in 2017, so a chance to go back to the Super Bowl is truly a blessing.”
When the Eagles prepared to face the New England Patriots in Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII, it was Ward, along with fellow practice squad wideout Rashard Davis, who played the roles of Patriots wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, mimicking their every move in order to prepare the defense for what was to come.
Earlier that year, ahead of a season-defining Thursday Night Football matchup against the Carolina Panthers, Ward – a two-time second-team All-ACC quarterback at Houston – did his best Cam Newton impersonation on the practice field throughout the week.
This Sunday, he’ll remain glued to the sideline at State Farm Stadium, probably donning the team’s newly-issued Super Bowl duds. But Ward’s crucial role will be reprised in the days leading up.
As the Eagles’ secondary prepares to combat a diversified Kansas City aerial attack helmed by Patrick Mahomes, it’ll confront a trio of scout team receivers that blends a wide range of skills.
It’s likely Ward, who has experienced peaks and valleys during his six seasons, will be called upon to swap hats frequently throughout the week.
Once the lone veteran among a young, raw and sometimes immature receiving corps, Ward has always been regarded as a respected influence within the locker room.
Soft spoken, yet steadfastly determined, the battle-tested receiver now leads differently – through actions and preparation.
And having been a part of the last Eagles team that reached the summit, he can be still be an invaluable resource.
“I really take it the same, honestly,” Ward said of his leadership role. “Even though I’m not playing, I still take it the same. Just make sure that I can give anything – anything that I see, anything that I know – any knowledge that I have, just give it to the guys.
“We’re all on the same team going for the same goals so whatever I can do to help, I’m gonna do it.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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