PHILADELPHIA − Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave doesn't even try to stop himself from laughing anymore as he’s rushing the quarterback.
He knows he can't.
Not when defensive end Brandon Graham is lined up next to Hargrave, running his mouth a mile a minute as the play begins.
"I'm laughing!" Hargrave said. "Because (Graham) really is funny. Sometimes, he tires himself out because he’s joking so much. He’s just so funny."
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Here, Hargrave breaks out in uncontrollable laughter, and Graham, standing at the next locker, chimes in and admits that's true.
"Yeah, sometimes I’m out there like, ‘(out of breath sigh), I shouldn’t have said nothing. You boys got me on that one.'"
No, Graham is not some prepubescent teenager cracking everybody up in the back of the classroom, although he probably did that growing up in Detroit. Rather, Graham is a few months shy of his 35th birthday, the longest-tenured Eagle, who's in his 13th season.
And Graham is loving every minute of it. So are his Eagles' teammates. The Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks this season, just two short from the all-time record set by the 1984 Chicago Bears. Graham, with 11 sacks, was among four in double digits, the first time that has happened since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
No doubt, Graham has something special for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes when the Eagles face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12.
Sure, some of Graham's exuberance is because he knows these opportunities don't come along often. After all, it's only his second Super Bowl in 13 seasons, and he had to wait eight seasons for his first trip in the 2017 season. In addition, Graham is playing better while playing less than he has since early in his career. And that's after a torn Achilles last season nearly ended his career.
"Who would’ve thought in Year 13, I’d still be here after we won the Super Bowl the first time, then how things went last year with me tearing my Achilles?" Graham said.
So yes, Graham is enjoying this. Then again, he always enjoys everything.
"I remember we were shooting hoops ... in the weight room during OTAs," offensive lineman Andre Dillard said. "Most guys are like in Year 7 or 8 and they’re (miserable). He’s in there jumping off walls and stuff. And I’m like, how do you still have all this energy and move around so well?
"And he’s like, ‘You gotta love what you do. Come in with a smile on your face, and keep it light.'
"That’s pretty inspiring to me."
Graham is always talking. During the week in practice. During meetings. During games. After games. To opponents. To teammates. To coaches. To the media.
In fact, Graham gave a virtuoso performance during a pregame coin toss against the Giants in an NFC Divisional Round game on Jan. 21.
Graham was caught on the referee's microphone as he approached Giants captains in defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones at midfield.
"We're running right at you, nine-seven!" Graham says to Lawrence, who wears No. 97. "We're running right at you!"
Then turning to Barkley: "And you know not to run this way!"
Then to Jones: "I'm on that throwing arm all day, 8!"
Then he looks at the three Giants and yells: "You look like you're tired from this week!" The Giants had won a Wild Card Round game six days earlier in Minnesota against the Vikings.
Fellow defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who is in his 11th season as Graham's teammate, was laughing as he called that exchange "a top 5 thing that he’s done."
Center Jason Kelce, who was out there for the coin toss with Cox and Graham, wasn't so sure. He's the one who had to block Lawrence.
"Yeah, I wasn’t happy about that," Kelce said with a laugh. "I told him right after, 'Hey, man, you talk (trash) to the (offensive) tackle, OK?" Kelce said. "I don’t need (Lawrence) any more revved up than he already is."
Graham sacked Jones and had two tackles, including one for a loss, in the Eagles' 38-7 win. Graham played just 12 snaps.
After the game, he approached Jones and yelled: "Hey 8! Didn't I tell you I was gonna get you, 8?”
Graham has refined his trash-talking over the years at the suggestion of former defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, who played for the Eagles in 2011 and 2012.
"Cullen Jenkins used to always be like, ‘Man, why you always cussing, and doing all this? (Referees) are going to throw the flag on you. You gotta get creative,'" Graham said.
"(Jenkins) was real good, real slick at the mouth, too. He was a good trash talker, but he didn’t open up like I do. He would just say little stuff."
But Graham can be serious … occasionally.
Like when he was asked about Tom Brady on Wednesday announcing his retirement after 23 seasons. Graham, no doubt, gave Brady one of the worst moments of his career, the strip-sack in the final minutes of Super Bowl LVII five years ago. That clinched the Eagles' first-ever Super Bowl victory.
"It’s definitely a life changer," Graham said. "Nobody can take that one away, going against Brady in the Super Bowl, somebody who you know put daggers in people’s hearts. ... I’m happy I was able to do that in my career.
"It changed my trajectory on how people view me as a player, and it’s just gotten better ever since."
But the moment of seriousness didn't last long. Graham couldn't help himself, noting that he and Brady both went to the University of Michigan, albeit a decade apart.
"I can always go back to Michigan, and if I see Brady, we can always have a good conversation about that one," he said. "He definitely has an opportunity with that big (broadcasting) deal he got, so I don’t feel sorry for him."
Graham doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him, either. Not when he's at the top of his game − in football and trash-talking.
"You can't help but laugh because he's so funny," Dillard said. "He'd line up against me in practice and be like, 'Yeah, 77, I’m over here now. I’m coming after you.'
"He’s always talking fun smack over there. He’ll talk smack to anyone."
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Brandon Graham's trash-talking has Eagles laughing while sacking QBs; what awaits Mahomes?2023-02-03T10:11:48Z dg43tfdfdgfd