After Miles Sanders broke his hand and knew he needed surgery, he went to Nick Sirianni’s office and made him promise something.
He made Sirianni promise the Eagles were going to the playoffs.
“OK, I promise,” said Sirianni, giving in.
It turns out, both men lived up to their ends of the deal. Because the Eagles were able to clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 and Sanders had surgery on Dec. 27, the day after breaking his hand against the Giants, and is ready to return.
Sanders will take the field on Sunday in Tampa Bay less than three weeks after surgery.
“Yessir,” Sanders said about playing. “Absolutely.”
While Sanders talked a big game to Sirianni and his teammates, making them promise they’d make the playoffs, he admitted on Friday that there was a lot of internal doubt the last few weeks. But just a couple days ago, Sanders said his hand started to feel much better and he began stacking good days.
Sanders was limited the first two days of the week in preparation for the Bucs, but will play on Sunday without limitations.
“I’m just really happy to be available for my team and be able to play again,” Sanders said. “Hopefully stack up these playoff wins and be able to do something real special.”
It has been a trying year for the 24-year-old running back. Early in the season, the Eagles were using a pass-heavy attack and just around the time they switched to a rushing offense, he missed three games with an ankle injury. When he returned, he was playing at a really high level before breaking his hand.
It’s really been one injury after another for Sanders the last couple of years.
“I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m strong with that,” Sanders said on Friday. “Whatever God is doing up there, I never question it. I might get frustrated a little bit but, like I said, the only thing that matters is we’re in the playoffs. The training staff, God, gave me a chance to get another opportunity this week. I’m just thankful and excited to play with the guys this week.”
Having Sanders back for the wild card round on Sunday means the 7th-seeded Eagles will have their full stable of running backs available against the 2nd-seeded Bucs. The Eagles have five running backs on the active roster — Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell, Jason Huntley — and all of them are healthy.
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According to Sirianni, there will be no limitations on Sanders heading into this game.
“Miles would not be on the field unless he was ready to go for this game and healthy to go for this game,” Sirianni said.
The Eagles have leaned heavily on their rushing attack this season, setting an all-time franchise record, so that’s a big boost.
But there’s no question that Sanders is the best of the bunch. He averaged a career-high 5.5 yards per carry in 2021.
Of course, the biggest question heading into this game is about ball security, especially coming off hand surgery. Sanders said he practiced normally this week and the team is clearly emphasizing that part of the game given his situation. Sanders said he’ll wear some sort of covering on his formerly broken hand but nothing too big.
“What it says about him is just how determined he is to get back and showcase his talent on a national stage here in the first round of the playoffs,” Sirianni said. “That’s who Miles is. Miles is obviously a phenomenal player and a phenomenal talent but even better teammate, even better person, even better worker. Which is why he’s got the talent and skill that he does.”