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Hopeful Eagle John Ross ready to start over again in place where it all began

PHILADELPHIA — It all began for John Ross in Philadelphia. Like the smooth Barry White would intone, for Ross this city is his first, possibly his last and his everything.

In 2017 Ross answered the call when the NFL draft came to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Art Museum, the Cincinnati Bengals taking him off the board with the ninth pick. But it was deeper than that.

Earlier in the week Ross visited Shriner’s Children’s Hospital on North Broad Street with Derek Barnett, who the Eagles would select with the 14th pick, and Haason Reddick, the 13th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals. All of them and other draft prospects spent quality time with kids suffering from any number of untold hardships. It was a wakeup call for Ross, who has a 7-year-old son.

“I don’t remember too much of what we did,” Ross said after an OTA last week. “But (Shriner’s) was a great moment for me. And just getting to meet some of the other players and some of the older players, the older cats that played in the league, that was a great experience.”

Five seasons after that draft, four with the Bengals and an injury wrecked year with the New York Giants, Ross retired at age 27, his career largely unfulfilled at least in part due to injuries. He had nailed a four-year rookie contract worth $17.1 million, including a $10.6 million signing bonus. But that was it for his professional highlights. Now he’s giving it another shot.

Ross showed the Eagles enough in a tryout to warrant a look at OTA’s and the mandatory three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday. The Birds need a deep threat after letting go of Quez Watkins, who Eagles fans vilified for almost everything that went wrong with the passing game. Ross or veteran import Parris Campbell could fill the need.

Why anybody would want to play wide receiver for the Eagles, who signed AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith to massive contract extensions, is a mystery. Watkins would have been a resource for that explanation.

The Eagles barely have a role for a third receiver when the football will be in the hands of the high-priced receivers, top-five compensated quarterback Jalen Hurts, newly signed running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Dallas Goedert. But they think Ross is an opportunity, and he says he’s determined to do something after realizing, “Literally, the day I retired, I knew it was a mistake.

“In my heart,” Ross added, “I know who I am.”

Flash back to the draft. There Ross was at Eakins Oval, draft experts talking about what a steal he was and how he would upgrade the speed of the wide receiver corps for the Bengals. Truth be told, the Bengals weren’t going anywhere with quarterbacks Andy Daulton and AJ McCarron, but that’s another story.

Before the draft Ross clocked a record 4.22 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine that stood the test of time before wide receiver Xavier Worthy of Texas ran 4.21 this year. Worthy, by the way, would have been a nice pick in the second round for the Eagles had the Chiefs not selected him with the 32nd and final pick of the first round.

The early glimpses of Ross show a guy who still gets down the field and for now has fresh legs, having not played in 2022 due to injuries or last season because he retired. Yet another reason Ross shouldn’t have retired was he quit while property of the Chiefs, who would win the Super Bowl with mostly average wide receivers.

Ross spent what would have been his 2023 season coaching his son Kyrie and beating himself up for being a quitter.

“I think when you get to a point where you feel like you’re at your lowest, you get to see everything for what it is,” Ross said. “And then you get to kind of look around and see your surroundings. I can tell you that my environment wasn’t great. So, you’ve got to kind of home in and pay attention to what matters to you and what’s real. I got to see my son every single day and I think that changed my life because it just let me know that I don’t have anything to worry about. I’m blessed and I have everything in front of me. I’m young, I feel young, I haven’t played that much football. I just got to a point where I was sitting there thinking, every single day, ‘How do I change my mentality? How do I change my mindset?’ I got this little boy inspiring me every day through watching him play football, him learning, me teaching him.

“I used to feel bad because I would get on him so much and I would be like, ‘I should be getting on myself’ because I can see me in him. I can honestly say he pulled me out of a bad place.”

Kyrie Ross calls his father all the time. He wants to know what dad is doing, when practice is and what he’s having for dinner. It’s just the diversion Ross needs after gorging on humble pie.

Top-10 draft pick, high expectations … and almost nothing but injuries to show for it.

Ross has been scanned and MRI’d so much he might be able to read the tests himself. He ran the 4.22 at the combine with a shoulder injury. He couldn’t stay healthy at spring practice in his junior year at Washington, tearing an ACL and sitting out the 2015 season. He never caught more than 28 passes or gained more than 506 receiving yards in a five-year NFL career where he was on injured reserve twice and missed 43 of a possible 80 games.

It’s been a struggle.

“We all talk about it all the time, if we ever get to the point where we have to try out, we’re probably done,” Ross said. “But then you get to that point and you’re like, ‘you don’t have another choice.’ When I got the opportunity with the Eagles, I was probably the happiest person on earth. It was the opportunity for me to play football again. It could have been an Eagles’ Canadian tryout, and I would have been happy.”

How much Ross has left will be much more apparent when the entire team assembles this week. He’s never been much of a route runner. What Ross did best in college was make big plays both at wide receiver and as a kickoff returner. The kid even started three games for Washington at cornerback, intercepting a pass and breaking a couple up.

Right now he says he feels faster than he can remember.

“I know that sounds crazy to say because I ran a 4.22,” Ross said. “I’m not saying I run a 4.15 or anything. What I’m saying is I just feel better. So, I think I can be consistently faster.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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