BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters waited a long time to be a part of a team like this. He’s not going to let something like being on injured reserve stop him from enjoying the ride.
Peters’ season seems like cruel irony. Peters had never been a part of a playoff win, losing all three times he made it in his first 13 seasons. It’s not like it was his fault; Peters has nine Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro nods with the Eagles and Buffalo Bills. When he retires, he’ll have a good argument for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s one of the best tackles of this generation.
This season, Peters finally was part of a team with real Super Bowl dreams. Then on Oct. 23, Peters tore his ACL and MCL. He was done for the season. He didn’t spend a moment feeling sorry for himself.
“I’m excited, it’s a dream come true to be in Super Bowl LII,” Peters said with a smile. “I wish it had come sooner, but I’m so excited right now to be here.”
On the surface it’s a tough break that Peters won’t actually play in Super Bowl LII, but that doesn’t bother him. He seemed genuinely confused by questions about the disappointment in not being able to play Sunday, because he views this Super Bowl trip the same as if he was lining up at left tackle against the New England Patriots.
“It doesn’t change anything,” Peters said. “I prepare like I am playing. I’m just playing through my guys.”
All teams should hope to have leaders like Peters. He knew right away his injury would end his season, and one can only imagine what that is like. He is so respected, Eagles fans chanted his name as he was carted off. Peters could have reacted a number of different ways in that moment, but here’s what he did when he was on the cart: He pulled his replacement Halapoulivaati Vaitai close and started to tell him what to expect for the rest of the game.
“When I was going off on the cart, I was telling ‘Big V’ how to take a set and how the guy was rushing,” Peters said. “I just felt like it was meant to happen, so I embraced it and rolled with it.”
Peters is still going to meetings and working out with his offensive line teammates. He’s still coaching up Vaitai, to the point it’s easy to see him becoming a coach after he’s done playing, if he wants. He’s even kept his role as the team’s DJ playing music in the locker room. Peters hasn’t played in months but if the Eagles win a championship, he’ll have earned his ring.
“He’s been a mentor,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s just one great asset to the offensive line.”
There’s still some unfinished business for Peters as a player. He said he doesn’t want to retire, and he’s already running and leg-pressing 845 pounds, so he thinks he should be ready by June minicamps. A couple more seasons could help his Hall-of-Fame case, though he said he doesn’t think about that much. He just knows he wants to play again, and hopefully it’s with the Eagles. With an $11.7 million cap hit in 2018, coming off a major knee injury at age 36, it’s probably not guaranteed.
“I’m going to be back,” Peters said. “Even if — step out on a limb — they don’t want me, I’m going to still go somewhere.”
All of us should hope we would handle a difficult situation with as much grace as Peters has this season. It wouldn’t be wrong for Peters to express disappointment being sidelined when he finally made a Super Bowl. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spoke this week about dealing with tough emotions having to sit out with a knee injury, which is understandable. But Peters waited a long time for this and he’s going to enjoy the moment, even if it’s from the sideline.
“Those guys go out there and play for me,” Peters said. “It doesn’t bother me not playing, because I know I’m a part of it.”
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