Sometimes, caught up in the fervor of football, we forget that there are other things besides it. A player acts a little grumpy during an interview, and we judge. “What’s his deal?” or whatever. We don’t always consider outside factors.
So every once in a while, it’s important to realize that football players, like the rest of us, are real people. Sometimes life intervenes.
I bring this up because Eagles first-round defensive tackle Fletcher Cox missed the first two days of minicamp to stay back in Yazoo City, Miss., to grieve for his fallen friend, Melvin Baker. A cousin who was Cox’s best friend, Baker died of head and neck trauma a week ago following an accident.
And while Cox did return to practice before everyone scattered for the summer, there’s no way his mind was completely on football. I bet the coaches gave him a pass, especially since he said teammates “were worried about (me). They asked me was everything OK. Everything is OK, though.”
How did Cox deal with football considering his sadness?
“It’s hard,” Cox said yesterday, which I spent at Eagles minicamp. “It’s been tough, but it’s life. Life goes on, Melvin’s in a better place, he’s not suffering and that’s about it. … But being out on the field kinda got my mind off it. Me being down and sitting around, it’s not good because all you do is think about it. I look at his life. It don’t seem real. I’ve been looking forward to his call every day. We’ll talk on the phone for a whole hour, just thinking about the things we like to do, the horses we saw this past weekend or on youtube. ‘Go check this horse out, go check out this racecar, go look what Ben did to his four-wheeler.’ It kinda touched me, but football today got it out my mind.”
Cox and Baker, 21, did everything together, including riding horses and four-wheelers. “When I ate, he ate,” the Mississippi State product said. Yazoo City is a close place, and Cox said it brought the town together. It also hurt, because people got used to seeing them together always.
Cox moved on to football yesterday, though, and that was probably a good thing. Speaking of that, he seems well-acclimated already. He’s starting to understand the scheme and how he fits in, and he was coming off the ball quickly yesterday.
“It’s not like I’m new to football,” Cox said. “I’ve been playing football since the eighth grade, I’m just new to things they do here. I think I’m adjusting real good.”
Cox was asked about the expectations of being a first-rounder.
“I just go out and be who I am,” he said. “Just go out and do what I did back in college and transition and get better. I can’t be Superman and try to do things I can’t do. … You don’t want to get into a comfort zone where you think you made it. That’s when things start going downhill. Just be who I am and just a relentless guy that love to play the game.”