Rethinking retirement, Darren Sproles mentoring Eagles' young RBs at OTAs

Rethinking retirement, Darren Sproles mentoring Eagles' young RBs at OTAs

As last season was coming to a close, with the Eagles set to miss the playoffs for a third straight year, Darren Sproles sounded resigned to retiring following the 2017 campaign. Now that it's May and the Eagles have a new lease on life, suddenly Sproles isn't quite convinced this year will be his finale in the NFL after all.

"We're gonna see," Sproles said in the locker room after practice Monday. "Right after we make the playoffs, then come back and ask me."

Sproles never said 2017 was definitely going to be his last but admitted there was mounting pressure from his family, specifically his two daughters. Five months later, he's joining the Eagles for organized training activities at the NovaCare Complex, a voluntary offseason program he chose to skip a year ago.

"[The Eagles] wanted me here for the young guys, so they could learn from me," Sproles said. "I said, 'Yeah, that's fine.'"

Sproles came into the league with the San Diego Chargers in 2005 and benefited from mentors such as Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and two-time Pro Bowler Michael Turner. Now the 13-year veteran wants to "give back" and set a similar example for his Eagles teammates.

“The main thing I tell them — it's really just the more you can do," Sproles said. "You want to show them you can catch punts, you can catch kickoffs, you can play receiver. It's just the more you can do. You'll be in this league a long time."

No doubt, the Eagles are hoping fourth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey can shadow Sproles and pick up a thing or two to help speed up his development this offseason. The rookie out of San Diego State is being groomed for a similar role as a "move" player who can take handoffs out of the backfield or line up at wide receiver.

"We want to get him in space," Sproles said. "We get him in space, he can do some things for us."

In addition to Pumphrey, the Eagles also have Wendell Smallwood and Byron Marshall entering their second season, as well as undrafted rookie Corey Clement. There are a lot of eager young minds in the running backs room.

Fortunately, Sproles is not alone. The addition of LeGarrette Blount in May puts the Eagles in the rare position of having two backs on the roster in their thirties who can impart wisdom and share their knowledge with up-and-coming players.

"They ask you a lot of questions, so we try to tell them whatever they want to know," Sproles said. "That's the good thing about having us in the room."

Sproles also believes Blount can play a pivotal role for the Eagles on the field.

"We need to close games out," Sproles said. "You need that pounder to keep the clock moving, keep the chains moving. He can do that."

While Sproles is focused on teaching the young guys and making the playoffs, he's also taken time to reflect on the career. Whether 2017 is his last season or not, the time to call it quits is approaching.

Sproles admits he has a different perspective now and is trying to enjoy his time at OTAs. With his 34th birthday approaching on June 20 and this being the final year of his contract with the Eagles, he also has goals on how he wants to walk away from the game.

"You don't want to be forced out," Sproles said. "You want to leave on your own terms.

“Once you get over 30 in this league, they try to kick you out.”

So far, the Eagles have shown no desire to give Sproles the boot. In fact, his 94 carries in 2016 were a career high, and he finished with 865 total yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. The three-time Pro Bowl selection averaged 13.2 yards per punt return as well.

Of course, Sproles is essentially training his potential replacement with the Eagles in Pumphrey. As long as Sproles continues to produce at that clip, he should have no problem finding work in the NFL, regardless of age.

Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

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Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

Brian Dawkins has chosen longtime teammate and close friend Troy Vincent to introduce him this summer at Dawk's Hall of Fame induction.

Dawkins was selected in February for enshrinement in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class.

"The presenter that will actually be on the stage will be Troy Vincent," Dawkins said in a video posted on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website.

"My teammate in Philadelphia. We came there the same year. Almost from Day 1 he kind of ... not kind of, he took me under his wing on becoming a professional. Not just a football player but a professional. The details. The details that he went through, the particulars of how he played the position of cornerback was the same way he lived his life (and ran) his businesses that he had off the field.

"He's a guy I can call anytime. Any time of night. And tell him 100 percent all what's going on with me, and I know he's not going to judge me, and it's not going to leave his lips (for) anybody else.

"And the most important thing for me, being a man of faith, is that I know he's going to pray with me. So all those things combined are the reasons why Troy was the perfect guy to introduce me to the Hall of Fame."

Vincent, a native of Trenton and graduate of Pennsbury High in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, spent his first four seasons with the Dolphins before signing an offer sheet with the Eagles before the 1996 season that the Dolphins didn't match.

The Eagles drafted Dawkins in the second round a month after signing Vincent, and the two spent eight years together in the secondary, reaching the playoffs five times and the NFC Championship Game three times.

During those eight seasons, Vincent reached Pro Bowls and Dawkins made the first three of his nine Pro Bowls.

Vincent retired after the 2006 season and Dawkins after the 2011 season.

Dawkins, Vincent and Eric Allen are the only Eagles defensive backs picked to five or more Pro Bowls.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.

Dawkins' former Eagles teammate, Terrell Owens, will also be inducted. He hasn't yet announced who will present him.

Dawkins will be the 21st former Eagle inducted into the Hall of Fame but only the ninth who spent the majority of his career with the Eagles.

Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

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Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

Offseason quarterback controversies are a rite of passage in the NFL. A time-honored tradition, really. 

We’ve certainly had our share in Philadelphia over the years. There were calls for Ron Jaworski to sit in favor of a young Randall Cunningham. Then cries for Jim McMahon to take Randall’s place. When Andy Reid drafted Kevin Kolb in 2007, that began a groundswell that he was the better choice than Donovan McNabb. Of course, most recently we had the Michael Vick/Nick Foles back and forth. To look back now, it seems silly these were even debates.

Most of the time, when you have these “controversies,” it generally means you have no quarterback on your roster. Not always. The 49ers in the late-80’s and early-90’s had Joe Montana and Steve Young, both Hall of Famers and all-time great quarterbacks. Both also won Super Bowls for San Francisco. But that is the exception. So is the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles’ situation.

I use the word “situation” and not “controversy.” Because there is no controversy. If Wentz is cleared by the Eagles’ medical staff, he starts Week 1. Period. What Foles did was incredible and will go down as one of the great — if not the greatest — stretch we have seen in Philadelphia sports history. He came up as big as you can. But Wentz he is not. That’s no disrespect to Foles. There are a handful of people on the planet who are in Wentz’s class.

Just a refresher course on what Wentz did in 13 games last season (his second in the NFL, by the way). He threw for 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 3,296 passing yards and had a 101.9 passer rating. The 33 TDs were the second-most in the NFL despite his missing the final three games. He also led his team to an 11-2 record before succumbing to that knee injury late into that Rams game that clinched the NFC East. He would have been the league MVP had he not gotten hurt.

There is a great luxury having Foles on this team. Wentz does not have to come back before he is able. If he’s not ready, you have the best backup in the league to start the season. But that’s the only scenario in which Foles plays Week 1. Simply put: Wentz is the better quarterback. And he has earned the right to start the opener if cleared. 

Some people read into Wentz's Instagram video of himself throwing earlier in the week as him somehow sending a message to Foles. I don’t buy it. I think Wentz’s message was to the fans and himself that I’ll be back, better than ever.

Wentz and Foles are both good teammates who put the team above themselves. Sure, Foles is a competitor and would likely prefer to start. But there won’t be any behind-the-scenes maneuvering to undercut Wentz. And Wentz is secure enough to be able to handle a Super Bowl MVP backing him up and all that goes along with that. Not to mention a coaching staff and organization that won’t allow outside noise to become a distraction.

Wentz over Foles. There’s no quarterback controversy.