Oct 16, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles fan celebrates during win against the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Philly mayor ‘ambivalent’ about greasing poles before Super Bowl

When the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl five years ago, the country was introduced to a local tradition: ecstatic fans climbing light poles.

The Eagles are back in the big game, ready to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl LVII, and the city is starting to prepare for a similar ruckus should the Eagles prevail again.

Greasing the city’s light poles in February 2018 only made the challenge more endearing for some Philly fans, and Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said Tuesday that he doesn’t feel strongly about whether to get the poles slick this time around.

“Greasing the poles keeps more people from climbing up them, but it doesn’t stop everybody,” Kenney told reporters. “So whatever the police thinks we should do, we do. But I’m ambivalent about the poles.”

The tradition has its roots in the city’s Italian Market Festival in the 1960s. It was a friendly competition for some festival-goers to climb a 30-foot pole greased with lard.

City officials greased the light poles last fall ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies clinching the National League pennant and booking their trip to the World Series. Pole-scaling was also on display two weeks ago when the Eagles beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

“NFC Championship, what I saw from the coverage, it was diverse,” Kenney said. “People of all colors, ethnicities were out dancing with each other. Philadelphia Police were dancing with young kids. There’s a general spirit of good will when you’re successful, and hopefully we can keep that going all year.

“I think we had like eight people arrested out of 20-some thousand, so it’s not that bad. No sense in overreacting.”

–If there’s one position on the roster the Eagles are uncertain about entering the Super Bowl, it’s a surprising one: punter.

Arryn Siposs suffered an ankle injury on his plant leg in mid-December when attempting to advance a blocked punt against the New York Giants. He had to be carted off and was assumed to be done for the season, but his recovery has progressed and last week the Eagles opened the 21-day practice window for Siposs to be activated off injured reserve.

But Siposs has yet to be activated as of Tuesday. Brett Kern is the Eagles’ other option at punter.

“We’re still working through that,” coach Nick Sirianni said in a news conference Tuesday, declining to offer any more details other than saying Siposs looked good in practice last week.

Siposs pinned 16 punts inside the 20-yard line and yielded just three touchbacks in 13 regular-season games.

–DeVonta Smith won two national championships at Alabama before the Eagles picked him 10th overall in the 2021 draft. Making it to his first Super Bowl, therefore, has not appeared to faze him in the slightest.

“I’ve been playing in games like this from little league, middle school, high school, college,” the former Heisman Trophy winner said. “So yeah, I feel like I’m built for games like this. I’ve been playing in games like this all my life, so to me it’s really just another game.”

Smith caught 95 passes for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022, his second NFL season. Being paired with A.J. Brown (88 catches, 1,496 yards, 11 TDs) made for a dynamic receiving game to complement the Eagles’ run-heavy attack.

Smith was asked why the Eagles have faced more man coverage than any NFL team this year.

“I look at it like you have to pick your poison,” he said. “I think some teams would rather just man up than let us just run the ball all day.”

–The Eagles’ defense may have led the NFL with 70 sacks in 2022 — the third-highest single-season mark of all time — but Brandon Graham knows the toughest challenge awaits when up against the slippery, endlessly creative Patrick Mahomes.

“Mahomes is the guy that extends the plays and drops the dimes,” Graham, who had 11 regular-season sacks, told reporters. “You’ve got to make sure you can hit him, get him on the ground, create turnovers, make him make bad throws.”

Haason Reddick, who led the Eagles in the regular season with 16 sacks and had 3.5 more in their two playoff games, called Mahomes “a tremendous talent.”

“I don’t know if you can contain him,” Reddick said. “I just don’t know, he’s that good. I won’t lie, he is.”

Graham, 34, has spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Eagles and was part of the team that won Super Bowl LII under coach Doug Pederson. He said he was grateful that Sirianni kept him and other veterans on the team when he was hired in 2021.

“He kept a lot of us because we give (younger players) something to look up to and I don’t take that for granted,” Graham said. “When I’ve got that C on my chest, I know a lot of guys look up to me so I try to give them something to look up to.”

Counting the postseason, the Eagles have a whopping 78 sacks. That is third most all-time behind the mid-1980s Chicago Bears, who had a record 82 in 1984 and 80 in 1985.

–Field Level Media

Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Las Vegas Raiders guard Alex Leatherwood (70) reacts after their loss against the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Lot of juggling, surprise moves on NFL cutdown day

It’s a whirlwind every year when the NFL cutdown to 53 arrives with teams juggling numerous balls.

Who to cut? Which veterans to inform they are being released, but will return when players can be placed on short-term reserve/injured after the close of business Wednesday. Hoping players will clear waivers so they can be signed to the practice squad.

The numbers are large. Tuesday, there were 599 players waived, 36 of whom were injured and 113 with partially guaranteed contracts. There were also 150 vested veterans that had their contracts terminated, 10 with injury settlements. Add to that eight players traded, 32 placed on reserve lists (including six suspended).

Wednesday morning, 33 players were assigned to teams on waivers, meaning that same number had to come off rosters believing they had made it.

There are always surprises, although some of those are only because they have recognizable names.

The Eye-Openers

Tennessee punter Brett Kern: He played 13 seasons with the Titans and is fourth in club history with 197 games played, having punted a franchise-most 923 times. Kern also owns the best all-time team average (45.9) and net average (40.8) and was a captain the last two seasons. His replacement will be Colorado State rookie free agent Ryan Stonehouse, who had a 50.2 average, 41.3 net and landed six of his 13 preseason punts inside the 20-yard line.

Arizona edge rusher Devon Kennard: The Cardinals lost Chandler Jones in free agency and Kennard accepted a pay cut from $6.75 million to $1.12 million with $600,000 guaranteed in March. He was cut anyway. The Cardinals selected pass rushers Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders in the third round of the draft, but the player that knocked Kennard off the roster was Victor Dimukeje. A sixth-round pick in 2021, he was credited with making huge strides in the offseason and with his speed had two sacks in the preseason opener against Cincinnati.

Detroit quarterbacks Tim Boyle and David Blough: Boyle had his contract terminated Tuesday and then Blough was waived Wednesday when the Lions signed Nate Sudfeld. Blough has been featured frequently on Hard Knocks, not that it has anything to do with roster decisions. It’s simply odd that a team would cut its two backup quarterbacks to sign someone totally new that has a lot to learn in his new surroundings. Sudfeld has been in the NFL since 2016 and had his contract terminated by the 49ers on Tuesday. It’s possible Blough could be signed to the practice squad.

Buffalo tight end O.J. Howard: He has never lived up to expectations after being a first-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2017. He was able to command only a one-year contract with the Bills as a free agent this year, and despite being guaranteed nearly $3.2 million, he was cut. Howard was reportedly visiting Cincinnati on Wednesday, but by the end of the day, there had been no signing.

Las Vegas tackle/guard Alex Leatherwood: Ouch! Selected 17th overall by the Raiders in 2021, he changed positions as a rookie and then was waived by the team’s new coaching staff Tuesday. Las Vegas failed to find a trade partner before cutting him and the Bears claimed him on waivers Wednesday. His salary is guaranteed for this season, but it’s only $1.3 million. Can Chicago get out of him what the Raiders couldn’t? The odds are low because there were a lot of raised eyebrows when he was drafted at that spot.

–By Howard Balzer, Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern (6) warms up during a training camp practice at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

Nas Titans 005

Recently cut P Brett Kern apparently not interested in Bills

Brett Kern apparently is no longer in the mix to become the new punter of the Buffalo Bills.

The three-time Pro Bowler was released by the Tennessee Titans earlier this week. The Bills happen to have an opening after releasing rookie Matt Araiza, who was accused of being part of a gang rape during his college career at San Diego State.

Kern, 36, seemed to be a fit due to the fact that he grew up just outside Buffalo, but his father told a Niagara County radio station on Wednesday that isn’t the case.

Cal Kern told the station that his son will not be signing with the Bills and was encouraged by the Titans to remain ready in case rookie punter Ryan Stonehouse doesn’t pan out. Stonehouse, an undrafted free agent, beat out Kern for the job in the preseason by averaging 50.2 yards per punt to Kern’s 49.6.

Last season, Kern averaged 44.8 yards per boot for the Titans. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Overall, Kern has a 45.9 career average over 14 seasons. He spent 22 games with the Denver Broncos (2008-09) before being released. He was signed by Tennessee and has played in 197 regular-season games for the Titans.

–Field Level Media