When it happened? No big deal, Jordan Howard figured.
“I thought I’d be right back for the next game,” Howard said. “But after a while it didn’t go away.”
It was back in Week 9, with the Eagles playing the Bears, his former team. Howard at the time was the Eagles’ leading rusher and on pace for more than 900 yards.
Howard ran 19 times for 82 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ win, but in the final minutes he got hit wrong.
“It was just at the end of the game, I got hit, I felt my arm go numb, and I knew I had a stinger,” he said.
That was 54 days ago.
On Thursday, Howard was finally cleared for contact. He practiced Friday, and he’s expected to be in uniform Sunday when the Eagles close out the regular season in a crucial game against the Giants in East Rutherford.
He’s missed six games, and he’s lost his role as the Eagles’ lead back to Miles Sanders.
“It’s been kind of tough,” he said. “First time I’ve ever missed games in my NFL career, so it’s definitely been tough, so I’ve just been living through Miles and Boston (Scott), watching them play. … I wanted to be out there so bad. I had prided myself in not missing any games.”
This injury has lingered longer than most stingers. Howard has been able to participate in the walk-through portions of practice throughout his layoff, but he just never healed enough to be fully cleared for contact.
That clearance finally came when he was examined after practice on Thursday.
He said game days have been the hardest.
“Being out there, being on the sideline, wanting to get out there so bad but knowing I can’t,” he said. “Just tried to support my team any way I can. … Definitely been tough, but nothing I can do about it. It’s a unique injury and it takes time. You just have to be patient with it.”
Howard is a classic NFL workhorse back. Even with this injury he still has the third-most rushing attempts in the NFL since he entered the league in 2016 (behind only Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley). He’s also got the third-most yards.
But the combination of Sanders’ emergence and Howard’s long layoff mean his role has changed dramatically.
“You just can't give him a full complement of plays,” Doug Pederson said Friday. “We don't want to necessarily disrupt what we have going, but he is a big piece obviously to our offense.”
Sanders will continue as the lead back, and Scott will continue as the second back.
Howard’s role? It’s going to be small.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been out on the field so it’s going to take some time to get back used to it,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in wherever I can to help the team. I know I’ve got to get back into the groove of things. I can’t just go back out there and have my regular workload. I know what’s going to happen, so I can’t be naive about that.”
But if the Eagles need him? He will be ready.
“When I get out there I’m not going to be scared, I’m not going to be trying to take it easy or trying to ease into it,” he said. “That’s another way to get hurt, if you’re worried about injuries. So I’m not going to worry about it.”
Howard may not get more than a handful of snaps. He may not even get any carries.
But for a team that’s been losing talented players every week, it is a nice change of pace to actually get one back.
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