PHILADELPHIA — Eagles middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is going to have to fight the urge to stand on the Tampa Bay sideline at Raymond James Stadium for the national anthem Sunday.
Hicks and former Eagles defensive tackle Beau Allen shared a special ritual before each game.
“(Former Eagles middle linebacker) DeMeco Ryans actually started it a few years ago,” Hicks said. “Before every game, he would gather the defense and scream, ‘Great day!’ Beau and I stood next to each other during the national anthem and after it was over, we’d yell, ‘Great day!’”
They continued the tradition throughout much of last season, even after Hicks suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that forced him to miss the final nine regular-season games and the playoffs.
Their ritual ended when Allen signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Buccaneers on March 15. Four days later, the Bucs signed defensive end Vinny Curry to a three-year, $23 million deal after he had been cut by the Eagles.
After Hicks finished his story, Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill offered to keep the ritual alive with him this season.
“No, thanks,” Hicks said. “It has to be Beau.”
Allen and Curry were both popular with teammates and fans during their years with the Eagles. Allen, a free spirit like center Jason Kelce and defensive end Chris Long, spent four seasons in Philadelphia as a backup defensive tackle.
Curry, who grew up an Eagles fan in Neptune, was there for seven seasons.
The friendships will be on hold Sunday, however. Both Allen and Curry declined interview requests with the Eagles’ media contingent.
“It’s definitely not chummy this week,” Allen told the Tampa Bay Times. “We have a football game to play, and I want to beat them.”
The Eagles apparently feel the same way.
Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks said he spoke to Allen on the phone Monday, but then cut off communication with his former teammates.
“They are both great guys, but that’s got nothing to do with the game,” Brooks said. “They helped us win the Super Bowl, but that was last year. This is a new year. They are just opponents to me now.”
As often happens when players change teams, Allen and Curry have reportedly given their new coaches and teammates a few tips about the Eagles, specifically quarterback Nick Foles.
Curry and Foles were part of the same 2012 Eagles draft class. And, of course, both Allen and Curry had front-row seats for Foles’ marvelous performance in relief of Carson Wentz last season, including the Super Bowl.
“It’s something we take into consideration,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “We keep it in mind. We just have to execute and be sort of mindful of when they’re in the game. There will be some things that we have to change up just because they know the terminology.
“But the other thing we take into consideration is that they have to focus on their job. They are two great players that we owe a lot of credit and gratitude to for helping us win a championship last year, but they’re focused on their jobs, too.”
Note: Another former Eagle, Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson, played with Foles in 2012 and 2013, the latter season was the one in which Foles threw 27 touchdown passes against just two interceptions for coach Chip Kelly. Jackson had 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and caught nine of those TD passes.