Tim Jernigan feared his career was over. 

The Eagles’ defensive tackle, who will make his season debut Sunday, suffered a herniated disc that needed surgery in April. While Jernigan wouldn’t say how he suffered the injury because of “safety reasons,” it seems pretty clear it was serious. 

“S—, I’m blessed to play football again,” Jernigan said Friday. 

“One day, when this thing is over with or I’m wrapping it up, I’ll get more in detail with everything. But I’m lucky to play football again.”

For months, the Jernigan situation has been shrouded in mystery and all of it isn’t gone yet. We still don’t know how he suffered the injury and we don’t exactly know how things transpired before he agreed to a significantly restructured contract after the surgery. 

What we do know is that the 26-year-old is going to play football Sunday after a lengthy rehabilitation process that prevented him from lifting weights for six months. That’s enough to make him smile. 

Jernigan admitted he was scared and nervous before his back surgery in late April. He didn’t know how things would work out. But he said Dr. Robert Watkins did a great job on the operation and things have been going his way since. 

But just being so close to what he thought might be the end of his career ensures he’ll never take football for granted again. 

“Something I just told myself and promised myself that I wouldn’t ever let nobody play with more purpose and passion than I play this game with as long as I’m playing,” he said. “It definitely means so much more to me. It’s definitely been tough watching. Whether this season would have been good or bad, it’s just been tough to watch.”


During those difficult times, Jernigan said he leaned on his family. His mom stepped up. But, really, it was his 3-year-old daughter Naomi who made the biggest difference. 

Naomi told her dad she wanted to go back to the Super Bowl. 

“She definitely gave me that lift to say, ‘get your butt back out there and keep playing football,’” Jernigan said.  


Jernigan began the 2018 season on the Non-football Injury list but was officially taken off the list earlier this week. While Jernigan wasn’t allowed to lift weights for six months, he claims he’s stronger now than he’s ever been. During that long time away from the weight room, he was allowed to use little dumbbells and get in a lot of core work. He spent many late nights at the NovaCare Complex. 

Will this injury affect Jernigan for the rest of his career? 

“It’s only one way to find out and that’s Sunday,” he said. “You can go through tempo practices and 75 percent speed. You can do that all the time, but you’ll never really know. When you go out there Sunday and you take on a couple double teams and you gotta tackle Saquon Barkley, you’ll find out if you’re all right or not.”

The Eagles have desperately missed Jernigan this season. They’ve been starting a rotating door of inadequate replacements next to Fletcher Cox all season. Destiny Vaeao, Haloti Ngata, Treyvon Hester. All season, they’ve been yearning for a player who can win some 1-on-1s. That’s really all they need from the guy next to Cox and the Eagles’ defense was at its best last season when Jernigan was doing just that. 

Jernigan said he would like to play the rest of his career with the Eagles, but “if things go differently, then they go differently.” 

For now, he’s just happy to be getting back on the field. 

That’s enough.

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