In 2nd stint in Philly, Trotter thrives again

Linebacker finds old form after two rough seasons playing in Washington

Super Bowl

February 02, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jeremiah Trotter has gone from damaged goods to a starting middle linebacker in the Super Bowl, doing it all in a matter of months for the only team on which he could truly redeem himself.

In what he described as a "humbling" experience, Trotter has returned to the Philadelphia Eagles after being a free-agent bust in Washington and has become the anchor of a run defense that seems to have gotten better as the playoffs have gone along.

"Every day I wake up and wonder how I got here," Trotter said. "It's been a ride. It's been a wild ride. I've had a lot of fun through this whole process. It seemed like at the beginning of the season I was shedding tears of pain, but now it's tears of joy."

Trotter made an immediate impact in his first go-around in Philadelphia, going to the Pro Bowl in 2000 and 2001.

But then came free agency. The Eagles tried to keep their two-time leading tackler by placing the franchise tag on him, but they eventually let him leave after a public and bitter contract dispute.

Trotter got the money that he wanted from the Redskins - a seven-year deal for $36 million - but never got the payoff. He had two injury-marred seasons in Washington, where many believed a knee injury had left him on the downside of his career.

The 6-foot-1, 262-pound linebacker was released by Washington after the 2003 season and wasn't receiving much interest from other teams. He even failed a physical on a free-agent visit to the New York Giants in mid-June.

A month later, Trotter signed with the Eagles for the NFL minimum of $775,000 and spent most of practice playing on special teams. His role initially brought the 28-year-old veteran to tears.

"That was the first day of training camp," Trotter said. "It was one of those situations where I had been to two Pro Bowls and for myself, I can't say it was pride, but it was hurtful to come back to a situation and go through what I had to go through."

Soon, the Eagles needed Trotter as much as he needed them.

Philadelphia decided it was time for a change after it allowed 252 yards rushing in a 27-3 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 7. The next day, the Eagles shifted Mark Simoneau to outside linebacker and put Trotter back in the middle.

"Jeremiah brought a presence to the middle of the defense that I thought was needed," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's an emotional player, and I think that can be contagious on a defense."

In the first eight games, the Philadelphia defense had allowed an average of 130.6 yards rushing. Over the next six with Trotter, the Eagles gave up an average of 83.5 rushing yards.

Trotter's strong second half earned him another Pro Bowl invitation.

"It's been a long, long road," Trotter said. "But when it's your season, nothing stops you."

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