If there’s one lesson Rodney McLeod took from the ACL injury that ended his 2018 season early, it’s to never take any part of the game for granted.
As McLeod gets ready for this playoff run, he’s savoring every moment.
“Opportunities like this don’t come often,” McLeod said Thursday. “I feel like it took me a while to get to the playoffs and now I’m able to get back coming off the injury. Looking forward to it. Want to take full advantage of the opportunity and not take it for granted. Give it everything I got.”
McLeod, 29, didn’t get to the playoffs until his sixth season in the NFL. When he finally did, he was a big part of the run to Super Bowl LII.
But last year, he tore his ACL in the third game of the season and was forced to watch the rest of the season, including the improbable playoff run to Chicago and New Orleans.
It was the first serious injury of his career and it taught him something important.
Any play, it can be taken away from you,” McLeod said. “It put things in perspective for me. I feel like I always play the game with a lot of passion and energy. At the end of the day, I think it does put things in perspective.”
Coming off his ACL tear, McLeod has been playing at a high level this season. Not only has he started all 16 games, he’s missed just two of 1,034 defensive snaps on the year.
As the Eagles’ free safety, McLeod is a calming presence for a secondary that, for the second straight season, had been decimated by injury at the cornerback position. And having McLeod on the field allows Jim Schwartz to take advantage of Malcolm Jenkins’ versatility, playing him all over the field and sending him on more blitzes than last year.
“He's such a consistent player for us and again, he just gives us such a sense of calm on the field because he's such a good communicator,” Schwartz said. “He’s certainly a valuable part of our team.”
This past offseason, McLeod agreed to restructure his contract, taking a pay cut to keep him in Philly for 2019. After this season, McLeod will become an unrestricted free agent. But it’s no surprise McLeod wanted to stay here; he’s invested a lot in this franchise.
Even last year, when he was injured, he was still a huge part of the team. McLeod was in every meeting, at every game. He was a mentor, a sounding board and a hype man. It was McLeod who would pump up the defensive backs in the tunnel before every key game down the stretch.
If you need a little motivation to get through your work week — or to run through a wall — Rodney McLeod has you covered. pic.twitter.com/BFDLpwz6Hd— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) January 11, 2019
“I think just me being one of the leaders on this team, I felt like it was just part of my duty and role at that time,” McLeod said. “I wasn’t able to be out there with the team and contribute. But what I could do was motivate some guys, encourage some dudes and shed a little light. I felt like that was my role last year and that’s what I did to help these guys out.”
That support throughout last season was meaningful to his teammates, especially Avonte Maddox. Then a rookie, Maddox filled in for McLeod for a good portion of the season as a free safety.
Maddox said it meant a lot to have McLeod guiding him through a new position through every turn last season.
But how much does it mean to have McLeod back on the field this year?
“A lot more,” Maddox said with a smile.
It means an awful lot to McLeod too. And he’s going to enjoy every minute of it.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.