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Former Eagle: Playing in front of fans ‘not good for my mental health'

Former Eagle: Playing in front of fans ‘not good for my mental health' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Philadelphia sports fans are a tough bunch, tougher than in virtually any city in North America. Eagles fans are the final boss of Philadelphia sports fans. They are equal parts proudly passionate, and shamelessly spiteful.

They are also equal opportunity offenders, meaning that they can, and will, direct their vitriol just as loudly and angrily at the Eagles players as their opponents.

Most of those fans wouldn’t direct that kind of vocal malice toward another person in real life, but they feel like they’ve earned the right to deliver on-the-job evaluations to the players because they purchased a ticket.

Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay was a guest on the Corner Suite Podcast hosted by his ex-Eagles teammate Steven Nelson. The current Eagle and the former Eagle recounted their personal experience with fans, and how it affected them.

Nelson: Philly is the only place I played at where… you can hear them [people] talking.

Slay: Right behind you.

Nelson: ‘TRADE HIM! WHAT IS NUMBER 3 DOING?!? GET HIM THE F--- OUTTA HERE!’

Slay: If we losing at halftime and we go in? BOOOOOO! The whole stadium!

Nelson: And that’s the Linc, that b---- packed.

Slay: Meek [Mill] and everybody!

Nelson: Have you ever seen a home crowd boo you?

Slay: We get booed a lot. We got our fans being the OC [offensive coordinator]. ‘Run the ball!’ I’m talking about the whole stadium.

Nelson: They’re playing mind games on the OC.

Slay: If they run the ball, it could be a negative play, they’re gonna cheer for it.

Nelson: I learned quick. I said ‘Oh yeah, I got to get out of here. It’s not good for my mental health. I’m stressed out.

Slay: It stress you out, boy! I ain’t gonna lie, these are the only fans that ever got to me before.

Nelson: That’s what I’m saying! I’m not used to this before… They [fans] are gonna sit [right behind] the bench, and they on your ass.

Slay: Every play.

Nelson: ‘He’s terrible! What the f--- is he doing?’ You gotta hear that every play. Even if you make a good play. It got to a point where like – and don’t get it twisted. I’m not no scrub by any means. I’m just hard on myself. So it got to a point where like, I’m playing against the fans, type of s---. I ain’t even focused. I have a third down stop, I’m talking s--- to the fans! I’m coming out talking, not even to the opposing team! I went home one day and said ‘Bro, this is not healthy.’ [Laughs] ‘I gotta get outta here’

Nelson played just one season in Philadelphia, in 2021, and started every game for a team that finished 9-8 and was just outside the top ten in pass defense. PFF ranked the Slay and Nelson as a tandem among the best in football that season. But his interactions with the fans apparently affected him to the point where he couldn’t endure another season playing alongside Slay.

After playing the last two seasons with the Houston Texans, Nelson is about to test the free agent waters again. I wouldn’t bet on him returning to the Eagles.