Trotter was final piece for Eagles' defense
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 12:09 a.m.
PHILADELPHIA - Jeremiah Trotter was unemployed and seemingly out of options. So he picked up a phone, called his former coach and apologized for the behavior that led to his departure from Philadelphia three years ago.
Seven months later, the hard-hitting middle linebacker is going back to the Pro Bowl, and the Eagles again are one victory away from playing in the Super Bowl.
''I believe this is our year,'' said Trotter, who came back to the Eagles last summer after two seasons in Washington. ''I'm just excited to be here.''
The Eagles, who lost the last three NFC championship games, host Atlanta on Sunday.
Trotter's return to Philly was a stunner, considering he left on bitter terms after a contract dispute. One simple conversation with Eagles coach Andy Reid last summer soothed any hurt feelings.
Reid actually extended the first olive branch, reaching out to Trotter when he injured his knee in his first season with the Redskins. By the time Trotter signed a one-year contract for the veterans' minimum of about $660,000, the past was forgotten.
''I came back to go all the way,'' Trotter said. ''We're in great position right now to do that, so we still have some unfinished business.''
Though he made the Pro Bowl his last two seasons with the Eagles, Trotter accepted a backup role when he came back. He made the most of his chance to get on the field early in the year by playing well on special teams.
Midway through the season, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson inserted Trotter into the starting lineup and moved Mark Simoneau over to the weakside spot.
The Eagles were 24th on defense and 27th against the run when Trotter reclaimed his job before the ninth game. In the next six games, the defense allowed averages of just 70.2 yards rushing, 227.2 total yards and 10.7 points per game. The Eagles gave up the fewest points in the NFC (260).
Trotter made such an impact on the defense that he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after making only seven starts. He finished the season with 80 tackles, one sack and three hurries.
''The thing about Trotter is he brings a physical presence to the game,'' Johnson said. ''He's always been a good middle linebacker as far as being very physical inside. He's a good tempo-setter and he's done a great job.''
In Philadelphia's 27-14 second-round playoff victory over Minnesota, Trotter led the defense with seven tackles, had a half-sack and made a key interception.
Trotter's teammates appreciate the way he handled being a backup, praise him for his leadership and welcome the attitude he brings to the field.
''He is a leader,'' All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins said. ''In the huddle, there is a certain way he carries himself. There is a mentality that he plays with and tries to let that rub off on other guys the way that he approaches it and the way that he makes a play.''
Trotter was the first big-name player to leave the Eagles under Reid's philosophy of replacing expensive veterans with cheaper, younger players. He signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Redskins but had trouble adjusting to a new defensive scheme, was plagued by injuries and failed to live up to expectations.
''It was a real humbling, learning experience,'' Trotter said. ''It made me a better player. The more you play, the more you see. You get smarter, you get wiser, you understand the game more.''
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