PHILADELPHIA — Eagles wide receiver Shelton Gibson lent some levity Thursday to the building tension leading to Sunday’s showdown at Dallas.
Media members were standing near linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill’s locker after practice, waiting for him to explain the comments he made to NBC Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“I mean, you look at Dallas’ history, they always choke,” Grugier-Hill said, “so we’ll go down there and make them choke.”
A player wearing Grugier-Hill’s No. 54 jersey, a gray hooded sweatshirt, and a towel over his head emerged from the athletic trainer’s room and made his way to the other end of the locker room, followed by dozens of media members.
Gibson pulled off the towel and smiled while his teammates laughed hysterically.
The Eagles (6-6) seemed to be regaining some confidence in the wake of their two-game winning streak. Before they beat the New York Giants and Washington, however, they had lost two in a row, including a 27-20 defeat to the Cowboys on Nov. 11.
Dallas (7-5) has won four straight to take over first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys don’t seem particularly bothered by Grugier-Hill’s comment.
“You know, Coach (Jason) Garrett has a great saying, and I don’t know where he got it from, but ‘Winners worry about winning and losers worry about winners,’” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott told the Dallas Morning News. “We’re focused on ourselves in this locker room about what we need to do to get better in each and every phase of this game to be ready for this week. We’re not worried about ‘He say, she say.’
“When you play a team like this, a game like this that means what it means, what somebody says doesn’t add any motivation. The reason they talk trash is it brings attention. If that’s what they want, good for them.”
Actually, that’s not what the Eagles wanted.
Quarterback Carson Wentz and safety Malcolm Jenkins were among those who could have done without giving the Cowboys any extra motivation.
“I don’t want to dive into that at all,” Wentz said Thursday. “I just wanna say personally and as a team we have a lot of respect for them and we’re excited for this one. But I try not to make any game bigger than another game. That’s the approach we all have. We don’t treat it any differently.”
Eagles-Cowboys has always been a big rivalry, dating to the 1960s.
Almost every game has featured some sort of subplot or intriguing story line. And now Grugier-Hill’s comments can be added for this one.
“Listen, I have a ton of respect for Jason Garrett and the Dallas organization,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said in a conference call with Dallas media Thursday. “ I mean, this has always been a great rivalry. I played in this game before as a player (in 1999), so I know what it’s all about. And listen, it’s going to be a good football game.”
There are playoff ramifications for both teams.
The Cowboys now have a 76.9 percent chance to win the NFC East, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, while the Eagles are at 14 percent. But the Eagles can close those odds with a win Sunday and also remain in contention for a wild-card spot in the playoffs.
“If I was playing for first place in the division, somebody’s comments are not going to bother me,” Jenkins said. “Our goal has always been to win the division, and we haven’t been too far from that all year.”