We’re one day from the start of organized team activities for the Eagles, and while OTAs are voluntary, you can expect a majority of the team’s players to be present. There is, however, a large contingent of prominent Eagles you shouldn’t expect to see on the field. Perhaps comfortingly, this year that isn’t because of contract issues or general disgruntled-ness.
Perhaps less comfortingly, it’s about injuries. The Eagles lost a well-documented bevy of star players for the season on their run to the Super Bowl. This offseason, those players already on the trainer’s table were joined by starters Alshon Jeffery, Timmy Jernigan, and Brandon Graham, who all had surgery. Outside of Jernigan, none of these recent developments should impact roster availability when the first game comes around.
But what about the players who received serious dings in 2017? Here’s a check in on the Eagles four most prominent injuries a season ago, and when you can expect to see the players who suffered them take the field this summer.
The Eagles quarterback tore his ACL and LCL during Week 14 of a season that looked like it was headed towards MVP candidacy. Since then, his backup has claimed a Super Bowl MVP trophy and ring. Wentz has been adamant that his sights remain set on a Week 1 return, but the presence of Nick Foles means the Eagles are in no hurry to rush their franchise back.
Speaking at rookie minicamps, Doug Pederson said he’s “very highly encouraged with where (Wentz is) at right now. He continues to throw and get stronger.” So you know the QB is throwing, but don’t expect to see him in OTAs or minicamp. “He’s not cleared to do anything,” Pederson said, so we can expect Wentz to “just continue his rehab.”
Sproles was the first of these players to go down for the count in 2017, breaking his arm and tearing his ACL on the same play in Week 3 against the Giants. He had led all Eagles backs in carries and yards the week before, with 12 touches for 78 yards. Despite that, at 34 and in the final year of his contract with Philadelphia, many thought Sproles would choose retirement before returning to the field. He had speculated it would be his final season before the injury.
Since the injury, Sproles has approached rehab as if he’d be continuing his NFL career, and after re-signing with the Eagles on a one-year, $1.4 million deal, that’s exactly what he’ll be doing. Asked if he was more excited to have Sproles back on the field or in the locker room, Pederson couldn’t make up his mind. “I love that kid, the smile he brings every day,” he said. “He leads more by example. He’s a competitor. It rubs off on me and it rubs off on the team.”
The Eagles will be cautious with everyone, but since he’s been at rehabbing the longest, Sproles should be one of the players you can expect to see soonest this off-season.
On October 23, the Eagles beat Washington handily for the second time in six weeks in front of the nation on Monday Night Football. They also lost Hicks and Jason Peters to season-ending injuries. Tearing his Achilles was a blow to Hicks, who had had injuries derail his college career at Texas and his rookie season in Philadelphia before starting 23 straight games.
Speaking in April, Hicks said from the start, he’s had a “very good rehab. It feels like since day one I’ve been ahead of schedule.”
But he avoided giving any timetable for when he’d take the field at summer camps: “The mindset especially right now is progressing every single day we don’t wanna put too much workload on it, don’t wanna put not enough. It’s not just the Achilles, it’s all the surrounding muscles. All the things that make you who you are on the field.“
The biggest enigma among these players is Peters, who spoke to the media at the Super Bowl for the first time since tearing his MCL and ACL in October and who has been quiet since. Like Sproles, he’s always approached it as if there was no question he’d be returning to the Eagles. A timetable of nine months to recover would put him at taking the field in mid-summer, and that sounds just about right.
Overlooked in all the Eagles off-season moves is the caliber of the injured players they are – ostensibly – adding to a Super Bowl-winning roster. There’s reason to be excited. As Hicks put it:
“When you come back you’re not just the same player you were. You come back and you’re faster, you’re stronger, you’re smarter, you’re a better player than you were when you left. Ultimately that has been every player in that training rooms goal.”