Pederson holding out hope Sproles can play again
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 weekto-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.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is not a doctor. His injury explanations confirm that. But he doesn’t think 35-year-old veteran Darren Sproles has played his last NFL snap.