By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
All it took was seven years, three teams and 107 games for Stefen Wisniewski to finally play in a NFL playoff game.
Wisniewski, the Philadelphia Eagles veteran guard, will make his postseason debut when the Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons in a divisional round game Saturday, January 13 at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It feels pretty awesome,’’ Wisniewski said. “I’ve been waiting a long time. Six years and really never even having been close to making it. This year has been pretty special.’’
Wisniewski was a second-round Draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2011 out of Penn State. His rookie year, in which he started all 16 games for the Raiders, ended with an 8-8 season that tied for first place in the AFC West. But Denver won the tie-breaker over Oakland for the division title and playoff berth.
“My rookie year, that’s as close as I’ve ever been,’’ Wisniewski said. “After that I’ve never even been close to the playoffs, until now.’’
The Eagles finished 13-3 this season to run away with the NFC East. Those 13 wins are more than any two seasons Wisniewski has had after his rookie season. His final three seasons in Oakland produced records of 4-12, 4-12, and 3-13. His lone season in Jacksonville in 2015 ended 5-11. And in his first season in Philadelphia the Eagles went 7-9, but needed two wins in the final two games to get to that.
As an unrestricted free agent last March, Wisniewski could have tested the market, but instead came back to the Eagles. He saw the chance to go where he had never gone before.
“It definitely was (a reason),’’ he said of his return. “I played on some bad teams. I knew this was going to be a pretty darn good team. For me I always wanted to be part of a winning team so, that was certainly factor. Every person makes decisions for different reasons, but for me personally I’d rather make a little bit less (money) and be on a better team. That’s worth it for me.’’
Wisniewski proved his worth to the Eagles when he took over at left guard for second-year man Isaac Seumalo, who wasn’t ready, and helped the team finish with the seventh-ranked offense and third-ranked rushing offense in the league.
“It’s fun to be a part of it and be part of a team that ran the ball really well,’’ he said. “As linemen we take a lot of pride in that. And starting is more fun than being on the bench.’’
And making the playoffs is a lot more than fun than having your season end after 16 games the way Wisniewski’s had the first six years of his career.
“This has been an awesome season. It’s just been a blast,’’ the 6-3, 305-pound guard said. “It’s always more fun when you’re winning than when you’re losing. Now to have the opportunity to win two more games and go to the Super Bowl is really awesome. I’m really pumped up. I’ve been waiting a long time.
“I knew in training camp we had a lot of talent. and even more than that, guys who were willing to work really hard. As the season started going we saw we were capable of being one of the best teams in the league. Now, we have to go prove it in the playoffs.’’
Playoffs. Wisniewski smiled just saying the word.
“I’ve been watching the playoffs since I was a little kid,’’ he said. “I’m a football fan, so I’ve always watched the playoffs. For the first time I’ll be watching with more of a purpose. There will be a lot more excitement watching them this year.’’