Darren Sproles’ first Eagles practice since 2017 was nothing memorable. Just a lot of waiting to see how he looked followed by the disappointing revelation he wouldn’t be participating in most of the drills soon after.
At one point, Sproles even appeared to plead his case with running backs coach Duce Staley.
“If they’d let me go full-go right now, I could,” Sproles said Tuesday. “They’re holding me back a little bit.”
The three-time Pro Bowl selection seemed dynamic as ever coming off a torn ACL, albeit in extremely small doses. He ran a little bit. He fielded a few punts. And that was about all.
It sure looked like vintage Sproles out there, but the limited workload provided few firm answers to the question, “How his recovery is progressing?”
We likely won’t get a true sense of where Sproles is at until the pads go on at training camp come July. What we were able to learn, however, is what would compel a soon-to-be 35-year-old running back to re-sign with the Eagles return for his 14th NFL season.
“Because of the way I went out last year,” Sproles said. “If I would’ve retired after that, I might think later on down the line it wouldn’t have been right for me.”
Sproles previously indicated the 2017 campaign might be his last. That was before he suffered the season-ending ACL injury, as well as a broken arm, in a Week 3 victory over the Giants.
The truth is, Sproles was already contemplating another year before the injury. The thought of his career ending in such an unceremonious fashion wasn’t exactly easing him into retirement, either.
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Watching the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl while he stood on the sideline was the last straw.
“Man, it was the toughest time ever,” he said. “That’s why I worked so hard to get back, so we could make another run at this thing.”
The Eagles were eager to have Sproles back as well, signing him to a one-year contract in April to reprise his role as a return specialist and situational weapon on offense. For now, the focus is purely on making sure he’s ready to go come September.
“He's ready to get back out there and go full speed,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “But at the same time, I want to make sure these guys are a 100 percent before they're on the field.”
Though Sproles is not yet a full participant at practice, his presence is already being felt.
Sproles was lining up alongside teammates for drills he was not taking part in at Tuesday’s practice and talking shop with teammates. At one point, he pulled Nelson Agholor aside during a punt return drill to discuss fundamentals.
It’s not just Sproles’ ability that’s important to the Eagles. He’s one of the leaders of this team.
Time will tell whether Sproles can overcome his age and injury to once again become a weapon on the field. Then again, if that first practice told us anything, the Eagles will be better off regardless for having him around.