He was off by a few weeks, but Rodney McLeod is finally about to play football.
Back in May, McLeod said his goal was to be ready Week 1 against the Falcons, which would have been nine months after he tore his ACL.
It was an ambitious goal and he didn’t quite get there, but just having that goal helped push McLeod to where he is now.
“You always want to live up to what you preach and that was my expectation and I pushed myself hard to get to that point, but I also put myself in position where maybe there was a chance if there were different circumstances,” he said.
“But just understanding it’s a long season and then also going back and discussing with the trainers, I trusted them and I had to do what was smart and best for this team and not be selfish. That was the biggest thing. I feel good, we all feel great about where I’m at and I’m excited to get back out there Sunday.”
McLeod, who was limited in practice the last few weeks, was a full participant all week, and after practice on Friday Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni formally announced that McLeod will make his 2021 debut against the Chiefs.
McLeod tore his left ACL in the third quarter of the Eagles-Saints game at the Linc on Dec. 13. It was his season-ending knee injury in three years. He tore his right MCL in 2018 in a game against the Colts.
The 31-year-old McLeod is in his 10th NFL season and sixth with the Eagles.
“I feel ready to go,” he said. “Just really trusted the plan that was put in place by doctors, trainers, and really just been getting myself back into football shape over this past month, really. Getting on the scout team and trying to get those guys better but also get myself better during this time, and we all feel like I’m at the point where I feel good, I look good in practice and I’m ready to go out and compete and help this team out.”
Anthony Harris — McLeod’s teammate at Virginia — has started all three games at one safety spot and is the only Eagles defensive player to play all 218 snaps this year. Marcus Epps started the opener at the other safety position but was replaced by K’Von Wallace when he suffered a concussion. Wallace started the last two games but is now on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury.
So McLeod is back in the nick of time.
“It’s huge,” Nick Sirianni said. “He’s shown every single day whether he was not practicing at all or whether he was out there practicing or whether he was getting ready to play in a game, he’s shown to be the same person every single day and he’s shown to be the same leader every single day, and that’s huge.
“That’s huge to have that veteran leadership out there, so I’m really excited that he’s going to get back out there and be able to contribute in this game because we need those guys out on the field that have that type of leadership that Rodney has, so really excited to have him back.”
Throughout training camp and the preseason, McLeod was actively involved at practice, even though he couldn’t participate. You would see him running up and down the sideline in his uniform trash talking with the offense, giving tips to the young defensive backs and then doing his own rehab on a side field with a trainer.
Epps is 25 and has started six NFL games and Wallace is 24 and has started five. So McLeod took both under his wing during his layoff.
“It’s really just sharing everything I know about the game and giving it all to them,” he said. “I’ve been in this position for a while and understanding the likelihood that I might not be available for some time, my role was to help those guys out as much as I can.
“It’s going to benefit us in the long run, just having that depth, having guys that you know can come at any point in time and play. It makes the room a lot better. It’s a competitive room and just glad now that I can be out there and compete with them.”