Anderson not ready to leave Philly

Colt Anderson might have an opportunity to leave Philadelphia this off-season.

Anderson, who has been a special teams standout since signing with the Eagles off the Minnesota Vikings practice squad in November 2010, is a restricted free agent.

That means any of the other 31 NFL teams can sign the Butte native to a contract once the free agency period begins March 12. The Eagles have the right to match any offer Anderson receives.

Anderson, though, is not making any plans to leave the place he has called home for more than two years.

“We’ve become really good friends with a lot of our neighbors outside of football,” Anderson says while visiting KBOW Overtime this week. “There’s a lot of good people there.”

Philadelphia, famously and perhaps ironically nicknamed “The City of Brotherly Love,” is notorious for its hard-core, sometimes nasty fans. In December of 1968, Eagles fans booed and threw snowballs at Saint Nicholas during a game.

“It’s not as safe as Montana,” Anderson says, “but I think Philly gets a bad rap from throwing snowballs on Santa Claus.”

Anderson says he is not looking at leaving Philadelphia any time soon. Actually, he isn’t even quite sure exactly how restricted free agency works in the NFL. He’s not sure he cares, either.

“Restricted free agency is pretty confusing if you ask me,” Anderson says. “I’m not worried. Everything happens for a reason.”

If there is a special teams free agent who teams could eye this year, it is certainly Anderson. While the Eagles struggled to a season that eventually ended with head coach Andy Reid being fired, Anderson had some personal success in 2012. named Anderson its 2012 NFL All-Pro Team as a special teams ace. That team includes the likes of Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and J.J. Watt. The team has 11 offensive players, 11 defensive players and five special teams players. The special teams players include a kicker, punter, kick returner and punt returner and Anderson.

The former Butte High Bulldog and Montana Grizzly wasn’t selected to the NFC team in the Pro Bowl as a special teams ace, but he was on the ballot for the second straight year. Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander got that special teams spot and the trip to Hawaii.

“He deserved it,” Anderson says of Alexander, who had more tackles than Anderson on special teams this season.

Of course, with the highly-documented struggles of the Eagles offense, Anderson and  his fellow Eagles special teamers didn’t exactly get a lot of chances this year.

“We didn’t have as many opportunities to cover kicks,” Anderson says. “Anytime you have less opportunities, you have less tackles.

“I love that role,” Anderson says of covering kickoffs. “I want to be on the field any chance I can get.”

Special teams clearly has a special place in Anderson’s heart because it was special teams that helped Anderson go from a walk-on from an 0-9 Butte High team in 2003 to an All-American at the University of Montana. It’s what helped Anderson make a living in the NFL since he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings in April 2009.

So, Anderson, 27, isn’t too thrilled about the NFL flirting with rule changes on the kickoffs to try to cut down on concussions. One proposal thrown around would completely eliminate kickoffs.

“I’m not a fan of taking away the kickoff,” Anderson says. “That’s been my bread and butter, and that’s what’s been getting me paid. It would hurt the game if they got rid of kickoffs. If  you take away one thing, they’ll take away another. Pretty soon it will be flag football.”

Injuries in the Eagles secondary allowed the 5-foot-10, 194-pound Anderson to get his first start at safety Dec. 9 in Tampa Bay. He ended up starting in Philadelphia’s last four games, giving Butte and Montana fans a thrill by picking off Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in a Dec. 23 home loss.

Anderson returned the interception 30-plus yards only to see that return called back by a penalty. The pick stood, though, and it set up a touchdown to get the Eagles back in the game.

“Everybody has been giving me grief for that return saying I looked tired, and I was tired,” Anderson says. “The defense was on the field a lot that game.”

Anderson diverts credit for his first career NFL interception to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

“He’s a great player,” Anderson says of “RG3.” “He can run the ball and he’s got a great arm. The D coordinator put me in the right spot and the ball just fell into my hands.”

The season saw Anderson, who returned from ACL surgery in December 2011 and regained his pre-injury form, win the team’s Ed Block Courage Award. The award is voted on by teammates based on effort as well as individual performance. Anderson will be honored, along with the Courage Award winners from the other 31 NFL teams, at the Ed Block Courage Award Banquet on March 18 in Baltimore.

On a personal note, Anderson’s wife, Keelie, also gave birth to the couple’s second boy (Krew) — the first boy (Cage) was born on Anderson’s birthday in October 2011 — during the season.

The Andersons also cheered from afar as Butte High’s football team won its first Class AA State title in 21 years. Anderson followed the playoff games via Twitter and by listening to KBOW on the internet.

Anderson listened with his mother, Michele, who was in town to visit her grandchildren. Keelie fell asleep only to be woken up by the commotion of Jake Dennehy’s 46-yard field goal as time expired at a frantic Naranche Stadium some 2,200 miles away.

“Me and my mom started jumping up and down,” Anderson says. “We startled (Keelie). She woke up. She said, ‘I thought they already won.’ I said ‘No, you don’t even know what just happened.’

“I don’t think anybody saw a field goal, maybe a Hail Mary or something,” Anderson says. “I saw the YouTube video. The offensive lineman comes in late, he gets set and the ball is snapped, then it barely clears.”

Anderson laughs at the notion that he is now Butte’s second most famous football player behind Dennehy.

“That’s fine with me,” he says. “I haven’t even seen him yet since I’ve been back. I’ve got to talk to him.”

The Andersons will split their time between Butte and Missoula until it’s time for him to go back to work in the NFL. He often works out at Butte High with Bulldog athletes, giving that State title some special meaning to the NFL player.

“I love coming back to Butte; I love going to the high school,” Anderson says. “I just love to be around the kids and motivate them and show them stuff. They deserved (that state title). Those guys in the off-season, they worked so hard. Coach Arie (Grey) has got them up there grinding every day after school. It’s pretty cool what happened.”

Anderson is also extremely approachable for his young fans in Butte. If he meets a young fan, he’ll often ask the child questions about sports, school and staying out of trouble. He usually initiates the conversation, too.

“I don’t think of it as a priority,” Anderson says of being a solid as a role model for his young fans. “I think of it as normal day-to-day stuff. I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

With Chip Kelly leaving Oregon for the head coach of the Eagles, Anderson heads into an uncertain off-season. Which assistant coaches and players will be around once organized team activities begin is an unknown.

What is known is Anderson isn’t ready to leave his new home in the “City of Brotherly Love.”

He wants to be playing in his No. 30 Eagles uniform come September, even if he knows from time to time the Eagles fans are going to turn on him.

“There’s been times when I missed a tackle and the guy right behind me — who has a No. 30 jersey on — is the first one to give me grief,” Anderson says. “They know when to cheer loud, they know when to be quiet, they know when to boo and they know when to give you the finger. It’s all good.”

“I describe the fans as honest,” Anderson says. “If they see something they tell you, and apparently Santa Claus’ outfit wasn’t very good or something.”