OJ Atogwe on becoming an Eagle

Atogwe

Free safety Oshiomogho “O.J.” Atogwe is finally free of free agency.

And for that he’s most grateful.

The seven-year NFLer from Windsor, Ont., signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday, just three days before his 31st birthday.

Atogwe had been waiting for what he calls the “right opportunity” for three months, after the Washington Redskins cut him on March 12, the day before the free-agency signing period commenced.

“I think Philadelphia has got a tremendous team all around,” Atogwe said Thursday in a telephone interview. “I believe they brought me in just to help the team in whatever role necessary to continue to allow them to be successful.

“They’ve got a great group of safeties there. I’ve watched them make a lot of plays. And I’m excited to join the group and help them, as well as allow them to help me, and really to get things rolling where we have the best secondary in the league, as well as one of the best defences.”

The Eagles finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2011, but ended the year on a roll, winning their last four games and outscoring the opposition 125-46 after starting quarterback Michael Vick returned from injury.

“I missed out on their entire off-season,” Atogwe said. “But it just makes me look forward more to the training camp. Until then, I’ll get as immersed as possible in the culture of the way they do things.”

AtogweA third-round draft pick in 2005, Atogwe spent his first six NFL seasons with the Rams in St. Louis, becoming one of the league’s better two-way free safeties — as both a pass defender and hard-hitting tackler. Last year he played with the Redskins.

He has 25 career interceptions and 16 forced fumbles.

Since the cap-strapped Redskins let him go, Atogwe worked out for the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, and reportedly had interest from the Patriots, Jets and Vikings. But he couldn’t find a match until head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles stepped up.

Was the three-month wait frustrating? You betcha. But he said he refused to let it get him down.

“I needed to stay focused,” Atogwe said, “and not get distracted by not having a team … And make sure I was being faithful in my workouts, and being faithful in taking care of my body. Because when the time was right, when God led me to the team I was supposed to be with, then everything would fall in line. I believe that’s what happened.”

Some prognosticators are saying the Eagles will be a strong playoff contender in 2012. Atogwe agrees.

“The thing that’s most exciting is knowing that we’re capable of achieving everything that we set out for the year, and looking across our roster and knowing that there’s no weakness within the team.

“It’s really upon us to decide how we want the year to go, and how much we’re willing to sacrifice, and how hard we’ll work together to produce on the field. That’s exciting for me.”

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