- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid was fishing in June when his cell phone rang. Jeremiah Trotter, whose verbal altercation with Reid led to the middle linebacker’s departure from the team after a second straight Pro Bowl season in 2001, was calling.

Given Reid’s location on a remote Utah lake, the call soon went dead. But Trotter was persistent, dialing 10 times until the call finally went through again.

Trotter, cut by Washington following two disappointing seasons, apologized for his earlier blowup over his contract and asked for a job. Reid, who had reached out to Trotter when he suffered a season-ending knee injury with the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day 2002, eventually agreed to rehire him as a backup.

“I said when I left that I would never come back,” Trotter said. “I had felt I had given everything to the organization and I wasn’t being treated fairly. But [after Reid’s 2002 call], my outlook on him totally changed. I had to put the ego aside and move forward.

“I had always loved it here. It’s where I got started. It’s where I made the Pro Bowl. The fans loved me here. I had great teammates. This always felt like home, no matter how much I tried to say it didn’t.”

And when Trotter returns to Washington tomorrow, it will be as the key factor in Philadelphia’s recharged run defense. Since Trotter became a starter for good four games ago following a 252-yard trampling by Pittsburgh, the Eagles have sliced their yards allowed per rush from 4.7 to 3.7. That includes a 2.2 average in their 28-6 victory over the Redskins three weeks ago.

Trotter and Co. have stymied Dallas’ Eddie George, Green Bay’s Ahman Green and Washington’s Clinton Portis. Only Tiki Barber of the New York Giants has had any success against Philadelphia’s run defense since Trotter took over.

With the pass defense solid all along and the offense soaring behind quarterback Donovan McNabb, receiver Terrell Owens and halfback Brian Westbrook, an improved run defense was all the 11-1 Eagles needed to ensure their dominance of the NFC.

“They’ve been stout,” said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who has conceded he made a mistake releasing Trotter. “They gave us losses on the first two plays. They give you a lot of disruptions because they’re very aggressive. Jeremiah is very forceful.”

Indeed. Though he has played on fewer than half the defensive snaps, Trotter is fifth on the Eagles with 55 tackles, including a team-high eight for losses.

Trotter led the Redskins with 129 tackles in 2003 and fell just short with 104 in 2002 despite missing the final four games following the knee injury that somewhat hampered him into last year. However, Trotter’s full speed ahead style never quite meshed with the read and react scheme employed by former Redskins defensive coordinators Marvin Lewis and George Edwards.

“I don’t regret going to Washington,” said Trotter, still just 27 although this is his seventh season. “It was a great learning experience. It was tough because we weren’t winning, but I grew up a lot. It made me be a better person, and ultimately it’s going to make me a better player.”

Which can only be bad news for the rest of the NFC, none of whose teams have come within single digits of the high-flying Eagles.

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