Ped­er­son hold­ing out hope Spro­les can play again

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @bob­grotz on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » In his heart of hearts, Doug Ped­er­son be­lieves 35-year-old vet­eran Dar­ren Spro­les hasn’t played his last NFL game de­spite the ham­string is­sues plagu­ing him this sea­son.

The Ea­gles’ head coach, the team doc­tors and Spro­les have been wrong be­fore. The run­ning back has been week-to-week the last nine weeks.

“I am op­ti­mistic that he can play, yes, I am,” Ped­er­son said Fri­day morn­ing. “And that’s the God’s hon­est truth.”

Ped­er­son re­minded his au­di­ence that he’s not a doc­tor, which for him is the ul­ti­mate throw­away line. The oath he took seemed a prod­uct of frus­tra­tion. Ped­er­son wouldn’t share any med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about Spro­les, much less the way the in­jury was ag­gra­vated. And Ped­er­son also didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the sec­ond-guess­ing about keep­ing a ros­ter space open for Spro­les, who has ap­peared in just the opener, where he gained 61 all-pur­pose yards play­ing 29 of­fen­sive snaps.

The Ea­gles have had so many in­juries they’ve tried to stash play­ers on the prac­tice squad. And they’ve paid the price. Punt re­turner De­An­dre Carter re­cently was signed off the prac­tice squad by the Hous­ton Tex­ans. Ped­er­son main­tains Spro­les was do­ing well be­fore ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a set­back Wed­nes­day.

“I know we’re go­ing to go down this path to­day and you’re not go­ing to get a ton from me,” Ped­er­son said. “I’m just telling you, peo­ple heal dif­fer­ently. I’ve got an Achilles’ prob­lem right now and I’m heal­ing dif­fer­ently.”

The Ea­gles felt good enough about Spro­les’ health to re­lease Carter. The Tex­ans signed the rookie with the 10.3-yard av­er­age on punt re­turns to their ros­ter.

Ped­er­son de­clined to dis­close who his punt re­turner would be Sun­day night when the Birds op­pose the Dal­las Cowboys at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field. Newly ac­quired Golden Tate and Nel­son Agholor, ac­cord­ing to sources, are can­di­dates to do the job. It’s pos­si­ble both could be used strate­gi­cally.

Ped­er­son an­tic­i­pates hav­ing right of­fen­sive tackle Lane John­son, nurs­ing knee and an­kle in­juries, play this week­end. The Ea­gles listed John­son and de­fen­sive end Josh Sweat (hip) ques­tion­able for the Cowboys. Cor­ner­backs Sid­ney Jones (ham­string) and Jalen Mills (foot) are out.

Spro­les and Jones are among sev­eral Ea­gles who have had ham­string in­juries in this, the sea­son where the Ea­gles im­ported a new train­ing and med­i­cal staff. Ped­er­son is as per­plexed as any­one when it comes to the dearth of the so-called soft tis­sue in­juries.

“There’s not a ton of re­search out there on soft tis­sue in­juries,” Ped­er­son said. “We’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can with our sports science, our strength and con­di­tion­ing, our doc­tors, our train­ing staff, our GPS track­ing. I’d rather have soft tis­sue, quite frankly, than eight ACL in­juries and lose play­ers for the rest of the year. So, we’re try­ing to put our fin­ger on it.”

Spro­les is just 467 yards from mov­ing into fifth place on the all-time NFL list for all-pur­pose yards. Spro­les has 19,216 such yards, trail­ing only Jerry Rice (23,546), Brian Mitchell (23,330), Wal­ter Pay­ton (21,803), Em­mitt Smith (21,564) and Tim Brown (19,682).

••• The Ea­gles (4-4) are sev­en­point fa­vorites in their game with the Cowboys, who are com­ing off a 28-14 home de­feat to the Ten­nessee Ti­tans.

The Cowboys (3-5) are des­per­ate, which should get the Ea­gles’ at­ten­tion. Owner Jerry Jones is un­happy and the or­ga­ni­za­tion has come un­der at­tack from the likes of Cowboys Hall of Fame quar­ter­back-turned-broad­caster Troy Aik­man, who said the fran­chise needs a com­plete over­haul.

“I think you have to be aware of it,” Ped­er­son said. “If you get a team that – and I would say we’re in the same boat, quite frankly – both teams are try­ing to win foot­ball games. And whether you call it des­per­a­tion or whether you call it must-win, both teams are kind of in that same sit­u­a­tion. You can throw out all the ar­ti­cles, you can throw out the records, you can throw out just about ev­ery­thing when it comes to games like this, es­pe­cially in your di­vi­sion.”

••• Car­son Wentz is just the sec­ond NFL payer to throw 30 or more passes and regis­ter a 115.0 or more passer rat­ing in four straight games. The Ea­gles are 2-2 in those games.

Pey­ton Man­ning is the other guy to post those num­bers in Oct. 2012. The Bron­cos went 3-1, the loss to the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

Wentz has thrown at least one TD pass with no more than one in­ter­cep­tion in 21 straight games, tied with At­lanta’s Matt Ryan for the long­est such streak in league his­tory. The Ea­gles are 16-5 in those games.

••• NOTES » Ea­gles line­backer Jor­dan Hicks has 29 tack­les, one sack and four in­ter­cep­tions in four games against the Cowboys. … “Arkansas Fred” Bar­nett is the San­tander hon­orary Ea­gles cap­tain Sun­day. The Ea­gles were 5-5 in reg­u­lar sea­son games Bar­nett played against Dal­las but 0-2 in elim­i­na­tion games, the Cowboys win­ning Su­per Bowls in the 1992 and 1995 sea­sons/ … The Dal­las in­jury re­port is topped by vet­eran line­backer Sean Lee (ham­string), one of six Cowboys ruled out for Sun­day. The oth­ers are wide re­ceiver Tavon Austin (groin), de­fen­sive end Taco Charl­ton (shoul­der), de­fen­sive line­man David Irv­ing (an­kle), guard Con­nor Wil­liams (knee) and line­backer Joe Thomas (foot). Ques­tion­able are de­fen­sive end Randy Gre­gory (knee) and tight end Ge­off Swaim (knee).

MARK ZA­LESKI - AP FILE

Philadel­phia Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son is hope­ful that run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les can play this sea­son after the vet­eran suf­fered an in­jury set­back this week.

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