Tim Jernigan was just happy to be back on the field Sunday.
After an offseason where he seriously began to contemplate his football future, Jernigan wasn’t able to play in the first 10 weeks of the year before he made his season debut Nov. 25 against the Giants.
He played 20 snaps in that game and was looking forward to finishing the season strong, but just before the Washington game on Dec. 3, he had some spasms in his back. After the long road back to the field, he needed to sit the next three games. But he returned Sunday.
You might wonder if the hardest part about playing right now is getting back in shape, but the 26-year-old defensive tackle isn’t even looking at it like that.
“The hardest part is over. The hardest part was watching,” Jernigan said to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Sunday night. “The good, bad and the middle, these are my brothers. I want to be there with them. The hardest part for me, personally, was watching. Just being able to get on the field, be a part of the solution, be a part of another Sunday in Philly at the Linc, it was just a great feeling for me. I gotta cherish every moment.”
He didn’t play much in the Eagles’ 32-30 win over the Texans. Jernigan was on the field for 17 defensive snaps (26 percent) but did have two big plays. He made a tackle on the first play of the game and had a TFL on a huge defensive 3-and-out on the drive after the Nick Foles interception.
So should we expect more from Jernigan next week with the season on the line?
“He came through fine the snaps he was in there. He was effective,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I would anticipate, barring any setbacks that he has this week, but I would expect him to play more, yeah.”
While Jernigan’s season isn’t over, he admitted having a healthy and productive offseason is going to be important for his career going forward. He thinks and hopes he’ll be able to continue his career without any more “bumps in the road.”
Without Jernigan, the Eagles have relied on a rotating and revolving door of defensive tackles next to Fletcher Cox. Destiny Vaeao began the season as a starter, but he’s been injured, waived and gone for a while now. Haloti Ngata took over as a starter and has been average. Bruce Hector never made an impact. Treyvon Hester has provided some nice depth, but he hasn’t been a true impact player. The Eagles have missed Jernigan.
The good news for the Eagles and Jernigan is that despite how trying this season has been for him, having played in just two games, he expects to be out on the field in Washington on Sunday with the season on the line. For a guy who just this offseason seriously wondered if he’d be able to continue to play football, that’s a gift he won’t take lightly.
“We got faith in each other and I really feel like if we get that shot to play in the playoffs, we’re going to make a lot of teams nervous,” Jernigan said. “And I think a lot of teams are already nervous about us getting into the playoffs.”
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