On May 13 this year, there may not have been a happier person in the entire Delaware Valley than Eagles center/guard Stefen Wisniewski.
Wisniewski was a starter on the Eagles team that made its magical run in 2017 all the way to the first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
The eight-year veteran out of Penn State lost his starting job at left guard in 2018 after four games to Isaac Seumalo, who was drafted in the third round in 2016 out of Oregon State.
Seumalo missed the last three games of the 2018 regular season due to a pectoral injury. At the time, the Eagles had a record of 6-7 and were struggling offensively. Carson Wentz was benched with a back injury.
In comes Nick Foles and “Wiz” back in the lineup, and the Birds go 3-0 and steal a playoff spot.
Even after that success, Wisniewski was sent to the sidelines after Seumalo was deemed healthy and was back in the starting lineup for the playoffs.
Wisniewski was understandably upset, and the Eagles did not bring him back in 2019, at least not right away. No other team picked Wisniewski up, and it seemed like it was going to be a long, stressful offseason for the 6-foot-3, 307-pounder.
The Birds must have looked at their roster and did not think they could protect their franchise quarterback, who was coming back from significant injuries, if they had question marks at left tackle and right guard.
The Eagles used a first-round pick on Andre Dillard out of Washington to cover themselves at the tackle spot in case there were problems with future Hall of Famer Jason Peters, who has struggled to stay on the field for the past two seasons.
The Eagles apparently wanted to make sure they had a veteran in place to fill in for Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks if he is not ready to go for the start of the season in September.
Brooks is dealing with a significant Achilles injury, and it is still up in the air when he will be ready.
Before signing Wisniewski, the Eagles’ best option was Matt Pryor, a sixth-round pick in 2018 out of TCU.
The 6-foot-7, 338-pound interior lineman did not see any action during his rookie year. There is talk that Dillard, drafted as a tackle, could start the season at right guard if he catches on to the Eagles’ offense quickly enough.
There was Wisniewski still sitting there as mid-May approached. If the Birds did not take him back, somebody was going to sign him.
It became kind of a no-brainer for Eagles player personnel gurus Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas to pull the trigger and sign Wisniewski. He was happy…to say the least.
“Hey Philly…I’M BACK!” Wisniewski wrote on Twitter under a photo of him wearing a tuxedo shirt while signing his contract. “And I chose to sign in a tuxedo T-shirt because I wanted to be formal, but also I’m here to party…on Broad Street…in early February…for another SB parade…“Let’s GOOOOO!!!!!!”
You get the idea.
With OTAs winding down this week, Wisniewski is getting back into the groove he has had since signing with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent in 2016.
Wisniewski, now 30, was asked what he gets out of the offseason practices at NovaCare.
“You’re just trying to get to know your teammates,” Wisniewski said at his locker after a recent OTA practice session. “You’re hearing plays, analyzing the defense, just working some footwork, body position. It’s obviously not real football without pads on, so you just try and do your best to work some technique stuff, shake some rust off so you’re not going straight from January to July without anything resembling football.”
Wisniewski said that, even for the veterans, these are the days when a team bonds.
“There is something about just being around your teammates, talking football,” Wisniewski said. “And just hanging out with your guys. That’s definitely a benefit-aspect of why we’re doing this.”
At last count, the Eagles have 18 offensive linemen in camp. Wisniewski was asked how he can benefit with that many linemen around.
“We really believe in our O-line depth here,” Wisniewski said. “We’ve got some guys banged up and some guys not here. We’re just trying to balance it out and have three-deep.”
Wisniewski has played in 123 NFL games, started 104 of them. Over the past three years, Wisniewski played in 51 regular season and playoff games for the Eagles. He was the starter at left guard for the Super Bowl run. That year, the Eagles’ offensive line was named the best in the league at the NFL Honors ceremony.
Right now, he appears to know the role the Eagles want him to play. And that is to be ready to jump in and perform where he is needed.
“I anticipate being the sixth man, center/guard,” said Wisniewski, who was drafted by the Raiders in 2011. He has also played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Wherever I’m needed. I just have to be ready to go at either position when they need me.”
Wisniewski will be happy to oblige. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompson111