PHILADELPHIA — Eagles defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole were hanging out in Cole’s garage Tuesday afternoon when Babin’s cell phone buzzed and Babin saw coach Andy Reid was calling.
“Any time you see Andy Reid come across your caller ID, you know it’s probably not a good thing,” Babin said in an interview with ESPN Radio’s Jonathan Coachman. “All I do was, almost, I laughed. I was like, ‘All right, coach, if that’s what you gotta do.’ It caught me offguard.”
When Babin turned to Cole and told him what had happened, Cole was even more surprised.
Although Babin’s sack production was dramatically down this season — he had 51/2 sacks through 11 games after posting 18 last season — he still led the team and was second to Cole in quarterback hurries with 30.
“When he first told me, I thought he was playing around,” Cole said before practice Wednesday. “He said he’d been cut and I was like, ‘Yeah right, you’re lying.’ When I found out he was serious, I was shocked. I know there’s a reason for everything, but I don’t know the reason for this. He’s a great player and I’m sure he’ll find another home.”
Babin, 32, didn’t stay unemployed for long. Jacksonville beat out seven other teams to claim him off waivers. The Jaguars (2-9) are one of only two teams with a worse record than the Eagles (3-8), along with Kansas City (1-10).
Babin became the first top player to be jettisoned during the season by the Eagles since wide receiver Terrell Owens in 2005. Owens, who helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl the previous season, was suspended for four games for conduct detrimental to the team and was then deactivated for the final five games.
Cole and defensive end Mike Patterson were both rookies on that 2005 team but didn’t view Babin as the same kind of divisive influence in the locker room that Owens had been that season.
“Being a rookie at the time, I didn’t let myself get too involved with what was going on back then,” Patterson said. “I just kept my head down and kept playing ball. That’s the same advice I’d give to the younger guys now. You may not know the reason why they did this, but you’re still here, you still have a job and you better keep working hard if you want to keep it.
“This could be a message to the rest of the team. I don’t know. But if the team needs to send you a message, that means you’re not playing well.”
The Eagles’ defense hasn’t been playing well for most of the season. The vaunted pass rush has been virtually non-existent. The Eagles enter Sunday night’s game at Dallas with 18 sacks in 11 games after tying for the league lead last season with 50. Their 10 takeaways place them at the bottom of the NFC. Opponents have scored 28 or more points against the Eagles in five straight games, though the Cowboys’ offense only scored 17 of the team’s 38 points in their last meeting on Nov. 11.
Although Babin had the support of his teammates, he had endured the wrath of some fans earlier in the season when he reported hearing some “vile” things from the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field after a 30-17 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 28 and questioning fans’ loyalty via Twitter.
“Whatever happened, whatever is the cause, I still have to keep working to keep my job,” Cole said. “We all do. We know the business we’re in and that’s the way it goes. I’ve been in the league eight years and I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen. I just mind my own business and do my job.”
The Eagles explained the move as an chance to give some younger defensive ends on the team more playing time.
Brandon Graham, the Eagles’ first-round draft pick in 2010, will start at left defensive end against the Cowboys. Rookie Vinny Curry and second-year player Phillip Hunt should also get some snaps. Graham started ahead of Babin in Monday’s 30-22 loss to Carolina.
“This is a big deal for me and I’m excited about the opportunity to get out there and prove myself,” Graham said. “This was a real eye-opener for us. I know my eyes are open. I know I have to keep working hard and take advantage of this or else I could be gone tomorrow. Just when you think you’re safe in this league, you’re gone.”
Contact David Weinberg: