Bergey, who turned 72 earlier this season, but still looks like he can pick off a pass in the flat, or throw a running back for a loss, if need be, couldn’t be happier with how things have gone over 25 years after his final game for the Eagles.
“I’m enjoying life as much as I ever have,” Bergey, who still lives in the Delaware Valley area, but also travels to Florida for the winter months. “Because that’s what us old people do,” he adds with a laugh.
“We (Bergey and his wife, Micki) have eight grandchildren and we have a blast with them. Life is wonderful. I have no complaints.”
As far as football goes, Bergey stays involved with the Eagles, gets to go to a few games a year, signs some autographs in the suites, talks to sponsors, all the normal stuff teams ask their legendary players to do.
“It’s fun,” he says. “It keeps me active, keeps me around. And it’s always good to see some of the guys.”
Bergey tries to stay in touch with as many of the players from the 1980 NFC Champions and head coach Dick Vermeil as he can. There’s a dinner here, a night out there. “It’s just a little calmer than it used to be,” he said. That ’80 team seems to have had a bond that will never break.
And they played the game, especially on defense, a lot different than they do in 2017.
“They’ve made the game a lot more safe than it was,” Bergey said choosing his words wisely. “Back in my day, I can remember certain things we got away with that they could never get away with today. Number one, as a middle linebacker, if a tight end or a wide receiver would come across the middle, you could just about take his head off if you wanted. There was a big intimidation factor there. The next time they would come across the middle they would be looking around, so advantage to the defense.
“When we blitzed, we could absolutely undress a quarterback. We could go helmet to helmet. We could go low. We could do anything we wanted to get him down. Cornerbacks would clothesline receivers after they caught the ball. And you could do that, too. Now, I’m not saying this is good or bad, it’s just the way it was.”
There aren’t many advantages to the defense in today’s NFL. Every new rule, every change to the system, while with safety in mind, has also been to aid the offense. Someone in the New York offices decided, and they were probably right, that more fans want to see 35-31 games; than 13-7 games.
“There’s no question about that,” Bergey said of the advantages to the offense in today’s game. “What’s the matter with a good 13-7 or 7-6 ballgame? Scoring points is what people want to see; they think that’s where all the action is. There could be good action in a good mano a mano defensive game, too.
“I watch the game now, and a cornerback, playing outside, gets a quick chuck on the receiver, and then you have to let your hands go. The advantage has gone so much to the offense it’s incredible. I mean, with the quarterback, you can’t hit him high; you can’t him low; and again I’m not saying it’s good or bad. And the players are so much bigger and faster today, but there’s just such a small area that you can hit a quarterback. I think it takes away from a real good aggressive defense.”
“Football is football and I love the game,” he said. “But today with the players being so much smarter and it’s a year-round operation. When I played, you would have to get a second job in the offseason. You didn’t even think about football until camp started again and we had those six preseason games.”
Cutting the preseason down from six to four games was a benefit to everyone, fans included. And the camp Bergey mentioned, let’s just say what current Eagles head coach Doug Pederson ran at the NovaCare Complex, isn’t what Vermeil ran during his days at Widener and West Chester Universities.
“We would hit and tackle all through camp,” Bergey said. “Under Dick Vermeil, we had three-a-day practices, and we hit in all three practices.”
Now, because of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and its rules, teams don’t hit three times a week. Some might not hit three times throughout the course of camp.
“We would practice tackling, too,” Bergey continued. “We would go for 15 minutes before practice tackling a dummy on a spring. And then we would tackle in practice. That’s the one real big difference I see today. You watch some cornerbacks today and they just kind of throw their shoulders out there; they don’t go in and wrap up the way they did. And I know why they do it, because they don’t want to get hurt.
“Another thing that’s different (in today’s game) and it bothers me a little is back when we played when it was 3rd-and-3, it was mano a mano. There was a darn good bet they were going to run the ball. They were going to line up their best against our best and we’ll see what happens. Now it’s 3rd-and-a half-yard and they pass the ball. That’s tough for me to take.”
Which is one of the few things tough for Bergey to take these days.