PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles returned from their open week Monday feeling rejuvenated and anxious to resume the season.
They will be back in action Sunday night when they attempt to strengthen their hold on first place in the NFC East against the rival Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
“We know we’re going to get their best shot, so we have to be strap it up and be ready,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said Monday. “Whatever issues (the Cowboys) are having, that’s got nothing to do with us. It’s still a big game. They’re ‘America’s Team,’ and we’ve been hearing about them all year. May the best team win.”
The Eagles (8-1) are currently the best team in the NFL. They have the top record in the league and own a commanding lead in the division after the Cowboys (5-4) and Washington (4-5) both lost Sunday.
They can’t afford to have a letdown, however. The Los Angeles Rams (7-2), Minnesota (7-2) and New Orleans (7-2) also are enjoying strong seasons. Carolina (6-3 heading into Monday night’s game against Miami) and Seattle (6-3) also are threats in the conference.
“This is definitely a big game for us,” guard Brandon Brooks said. “But all our games are big games from here on out. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true that on any given Sunday, any team can be beaten. If you take any team lightly, you can get smoked.”
Coach Doug Pederson gave the team last week off and urged his players to get away from football for a while to heal physically and recharge mentally.
Quarterback Carson Wentz was unavailable for comment Monday but on Sunday posted a photo on Twitter showing him sitting in a tree stand while deer hunting.
“Still readin’ the field on this Sunday,” Wentz wrote with the picture. “Just from a different view.”
Brooks took advantage of the break to head to California. He stayed in Santa Monica and visited with injured teammate Darren Sproles. The veteran running back and returner will miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken arm and torn anterior cruciate knee ligament against the New York Giants on Sept. 25.
“He looks fantastic,” Brooks said. “I worked out with him and it was just crazy to see what he can do already. If it wasn’t for the knee brace he was wearing, you’d have never known he was hurt.”
Graham took his family to the Cayman Islands for a week to enjoy “the sun and the beach.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount returned to his hometown of Perry, Florida, to visit with his parents, Barbara and Gary Blount.
Perry is a small town located in Taylor County on the Florida Panhandle. Although Blount is its most famous resident, he knows he can go home without being bothered by autograph seekers or the media.
“Maybe it’s because I’m from there, but people don’t treat me any different,” Blount said. “I can go to a restaurant or Wal-Mart or wherever and it’s not a big deal to them. I get asked to sign stuff once in a while, but it’s not a big deal.”
The Eagles signed free-agent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and waived cornerback Dexter McDougle to make room for the return of cornerback Ronald Darby.
Ellerbe had 44 tackles and four sacks for the Saints last season before suffering a foot injury. He went to training camp with the Saints this year but was released in August.
“I’m 100 percent,” Ellerbe said. “I don’t know what my role is going to be, but I’m just excited to be here, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win.”
Darby suffered a dislocated ankle in the Eagles’ season-opener at Washington and is scheduled to return to action against Dallas on Sunday. He remained on the 53-man roster as he recovered.