When Jason Peters went down with a torn ACL last October, some speculated the Eagles' left tackle may have played his last down in the NFL. Sadly, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection is used to that kind of talk by now.
"They’ve been saying that since 2012 or ’13, and I just keeping showing up," Peters said while walking off the field at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday, the Eagles' opening practice of training camp and his first full-team workout since undergoing knee surgery.
He was alluding to an Achilles injury that was considered career-threatening at the time, and the numerous observers who wondered aloud about the aging superstar's future with the Eagles over the years since.
Peters turned 36 in January. Even if he can continue to play at a high level — a big if — there's always going to be the question of how much longer he's willing to go. He realizes that.
Just don't expect Peters to bow out gracefully. If and when a time ever comes where the Eagles no longer need or want his services, only then does it sound like the future Hall of Famer plans on considering retirement.
"I’m year-to-year," Peters said. "I love the game. They’re going to have to kick me out for me to leave. I’m going to bring it every year."
With that mentality, he may very well play forever.
“When I hurt my knee, I knew I had to try to get back on the field because I wasn’t going out like that. Right now, I’m nine months today. I’m still working. The doc told me like a year or so but I don’t listen to that stuff.”
Prior to his most recent season-ending injury, it's not as if Peters was just getting by. He was still performing at the highest level, as arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the league. Despite the bum knee, it would seem an odd time to call it quits, no matter how many people were worried about the Eagles potentially saving $7 million — Peters' salary for '18.
When you're this good for this long, the salary cap really shouldn't be a concern.
"Looks like a freak as usual," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Nothing really changed from that aspect.
“There’s not very many humans like him on the planet earth. It’s fun to watch him, fun to be a witness to it.”
Winning a ring couldn't stop Peters, either. Sure, he wasn't on the field when the Eagles won the Super Bowl last season, a not-so-minor detail quite a few players are using as motivation in '18. Carson Wentz? Darren Sproles? Jordan Hicks? Maybe some of those guys want to feel as though they "earned" it.
But it's not simply another ring that's motivating Peters.
“At the time I got hurt, I knew I had messed something up," Peters said. "I was thinking, ‘You know what, this happened for a reason.’ If I knew I’d blow my knee out and get a ring, I would’ve done it a long time ago.”
Peters is going to play as long as the Eagles will have him, and as long as he can play like he did in '17 before the injury, there's no reason the team will look to move on. And while an ACL is a difficult injury for any athlete to overcome, let alone one approaching his 40s, all the evidence suggests this is a rare specimen, and after years of trying, not somebody folks should be trying to push out the door.
“I have good genes, man," Peters said. "Just work ethic. The drive. I work harder than the young guys. I just try to go in and do as much as I can every day without overworking it because, you know, I am 36. But I don’t pay that any mind.”
For now, neither should anybody else.