Donnel Pumphrey was having a terrific training camp until he hobbled off the field halfway through practice Tuesday.
Now his shot at a spot on the 53-man roster is in jeopardy.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson gave little clarity to Pumphrey's injury Saturday when asked how big a blow missing the preseason opener was to Pumphrey, but he did say this quite ominously:
“It's hard,” he said. “It's hard for young players, quite honestly in this league, to make rosters.”
Pumphrey, a record-setting back at San Diego State University and a fourth-round pick last year, was already in a roster battle before he got hurt, but he was making plays and looked worlds better than during his lost rookie year.
Pederson didn’t set any timetable for Pumphrey to return, but he didn’t sound very optimistic.
"Obviously, it's hard,” Pederson said Saturday before open practice at the Linc. “Any time it's a lower body (injury), it takes time, and we just got to make sure he's 100 percent.”
With Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles set for the top three running back spots, Pumphrey has his hands full with Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones and Josh Adams for the fourth spot.
“He's flashed,” Pederson said. “He's done some nice things. Just got to make sure we — as a medical staff (and) myself — we don't push it. We make sure he's healthy again before we put him back out on the field and see where he's at. It's just unfortunate at this time.”
Adams had the best day of the bunch Thursday night against the Steelers with 30 rushing yards on six carries and two catches.
Smallwood’s final numbers didn’t look great — 6 for 21 with a fumble — but before a five-yard loss behind the third offensive line in the game’s final moments, he was 5 for 26 rushing along with a two-point conversion run and a fumble.
“I thought Wendell ran extremely hard,” Pederson said. “He ran extremely hard. Unfortunately, he did put the ball on the ground the one time. We were fortunate to get it back. He's a guy that just continues to flash and do some really good things.
“He's a big part of the punt team, the coverage … I think he understands that competition is a real thing. It's making him sort of focus in and dial in. He's done a really nice job in camp up to this point.
“Josh is just coming in. He's learning the system. We've sprinkled him in there. I thought he’s another one that ran extremely hard in the second half. Had some really nice runs around the ends. Just continues to grow. Continues to get better every day and stronger every day.
“He's a pretty good receiver out of the backfield, more of check-down throws to him the other night.
“But both those guys are really competing and doing a nice job.”
After missing the preseason opener Thursday, Jones was back at practice Saturday and barring another injury, looks on track to make his preseason debut against the Patriots on Thursday night in Foxboro.
This is a terrific four-man battle presumably for one spot that will become a three-man battle very soon if Pumphrey doesn’t get back on the field.