Hank Baskett

Hank Baskett

There have been many ups and downs for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Hank Baskett out of the University of New Mexico who was not even drafted. After being traded from Minnesota to Philadelphia, Baskett has shown a leadership role in his first season and isone of the reasons the Eagles are the NFC East Champions. He reflects on the playoff game this weekend against the New York Giants, his first season in the NFL, how this team has been underestimated, and so much more.

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Chris Yandek: Has this rookie season been a lot of ups and downs for you after everyone thought you wouldn’t be hosting a home playoff game as an NFC East Champions against the New York Giants this weekend and let alone make the playoffs?

Hank Baskett: “Oh yeah. There has been so many ups and downs. It goes back to before the season even started. The ups and downs of my whole life just trying to get here, but for the season wise, so many people counted us out, but I will tell you this, everyone that is in that locker room, no one ever changed their thought. We knew what we wanted to do. We had to go the long way to do it, but we got it done. There is still a long road ahead of us, but we learned we were looking at the Super Bowl the whole time, but we should’ve known that. What’s helped us now is that just take one game at a time.”

CY: What do you think was the thing that kept this offense together after quarterback Donovan McNabb was sidelined for the rest of the reason?

HB: “Having another pro bowler come in after he went down. Jeff has got it done in other places. When he was in San Francisco everyone saw what he could do. He has come here and shown he still has it. He brings excitement like Donovan had, that’s one thing right there. He keeps the huddle on his toes and everything like that. That just helps ease the tension.”

CY: Running back Brian Westbrook became more vocal and more of a leader on this team. How do you think he helped this team as a leader after Donovan’s injury?

HB: “Just like you say, he is more vocal. Donovan, everybody knows is going to be very vocal and a confident guy. He is going to make sure everyone knows he is around. Westbrook has done the exact same thing. He comes up and breaks us off every now and then. He will break the group down and just come in. The biggest thing he has done is that he doesn’t even have to say a word. He does it by his work on the field. That man is amazing.”

CY: The conclusion I guess is that you and the rest of your team have been underestimated after Donovan’s injury for the most part.

HB: “Oh definitely. Everybody counted us out. Everybody outside of this building that we practice in and these fields counted us out, but we never looked back at all. We just kept looking ahead. That’s the fortunate thing about our job. Each week is a new week. It’s a new opponent. If you sit there and dwell on the past, there is no way you are going to move on.”

CY: Has this team showed that one starting player doesn’t make a team and you can still win without that player?

HB: “You can give us a Heisman Trophy winner and still have a bad team. If you have a team, that’s what it’s about. That’s the biggest part here. We all play together. We play for each other. That’s how we break the huddle most of the time is just together on three because that’s what we are. We have been a family since training camp. It still shows today.”

CY: How do you think the offense matches up with the Giants defense this weekend?

HB: “It is hard to say because you know they won one and we won one, but I say it matches up very well because they are very physical and we are very physical. There is not a lot of offenses in this league that are as physical as we are. We all like to get after it from the receivers to the lineman. You’ll even see Jeff out there getting physical with people. It’s definitely the big thing right there that we are both very physical teams and we match up pretty evenly right there.”

CY: The Philadelphia Eagles put up 36 points on December 17, 2006 in your last meeting. How do you keep the scoring power going on offense?

HB: “Just stay consistent and that’s what we have done. These kind of games that we have won, just consistency. There is going to be those bad times that happen in a game and there is always ups and downs every game. It’s just can you maintain that level and evenness throughout the game.”

CY: What do you think you have to do to be successful at catching passes from Jeff Garcia this weekend against the New York Giants defense?

HB: “It’s the same thing, catching a pass from anybody. You gotta work your way to get open because they got some very good DBs. Sometimes when I am inside the linebackers will step out there on me. You just gotta be ready to get physical with the one because if not they are gonna take you or run you to the sideline.”

CY: Is it harder to play the same team in the playoffs now for the third time since they know some of the plays you run?

HB: “Oh yeah, but this is the NFL. Everybody has film on everybody. You are gonna know some of the plays. As far as you saying playing them in the playoffs, this is my first time in the playoffs so I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I know it’s going to be stepped up a notch, but overall it’s a whole new experience to me.”

CY: Have the practices been any different this week?

HB: “No. That is one thing that is really taken an appreciation to Coach Reid. Practices remain the same all year long. He’s just as intense winning as we are losing.”

CY: How did he help adjust the offense after Donovan was sidelined or did the offense change in any way?

HB: “Not really. Jeff was in there all preseason. He was in there making plays and running the exact same plays Donovan was. I really don’t think it’s changed in any way, a couple plays that suit Jeff better than Donovan and there are some plays that suit Donovan better than Jeff.”

CY: Jeff Garcia has had a few rough seasons recently. Everyone was surprised at how well he performed, but you guys weren’t surprised at how well he performed in that leadership role.

HB: “Oh no. To have a pro bowler come in and backup a pro bowler, that’s lucky right there. We were lucky to have that situation. It just shows that he still wants it and maybe he was in some systems that didn’t suit him. He knows that west coast offense. That’s what he scored up with in San Francisco. He just came here and he is making it work.”

CY: What was it like for you coming off the bench and having to step on the field in your first season in the NFL and be a leading receiver on this team?

HB: “It’s an awesome feeling. Just to be in the NFL is an incredible feeling, but you know, to actually say that I contributed my rookie year and actually played in every game is amazing right there.”

CY: What are some of the lessons you’ve had to learn this season?

HB: “You have to come early to practice, it’s crazy. I describe it to my friends who still play college. We come out here and it’s perfection. You aint gonna catch every ball, but you better come close to catching every ball. Everything is just run with perfection. You do this play and move on and just keep going. It’s just amazing how fast it goes.”

CY: How did you feel after you weren’t drafted and at that time did you feel like you had more to prove in a training camp if you were signed as a free agent which you were?

HB: “It was rough. The draft was the hardest. I would say the worst I have ever felt in my life, but you know I learned the most from that day I’d probably say. Coming in as an undrafted player I knew I was at the very bottom of the totem poll. I knew I had to prove myself and prove myself fast in order to be there.”

CY: You lead New Mexico in wide receiving in 2004 and 2005. Is it harder to stand out to the scouts because you aren’t on TV or in the media spotlight as much?

HB: “I’d definitely say that. I was at what you would call a mid major you know. We didn’t get as much as airtime as everybody else and they say you don’t play as good as guys as everybody else. We played All Americans and guys that were drafted high. It’s just harder to get respect at the smaller schools.”

CY: Finally, what do you think it takes to win this weekend you think?

HB: “Consistency. That’s what it took every weekend as long as we remain consistent everything is going very well for us.”

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