Eagles

Timeless Darren Sproles looks as youthful as ever at Eagles training camp

Timeless Darren Sproles looks as youthful as ever at Eagles training camp

He didn’t do it this offseason, but in years past, Zach Ertz has gone to San Diego to work out with Darren Sproles. 

Ertz joked he used to visit Southern California on a mission to figure out what kind of magic potion Sproles drank to keep him young. 

His attempts proved futile.  

“There’s no magic potion, just hard work,” Ertz said with a smile. “Hard work is the only potion he’s got.” 

I don’t know if I’m buying it. 

I think Sproles either has some magic potion or visits a fountain of youth or made some sort of deal with the Devil. 

Because we’re a week into training camp and 35-year-old Sproles, coming off a broken arm and a torn ACL, looks like he’s still in his mid-20s. It really looks like the injuries never happened. 

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised by this. None of us should be surprised by this. 

Carson Wentz has known Sproles since he was drafted in 2016. That’s long enough to know that "Mighty Mouse" isn’t like the rest of us. 

It’s remarkable,” Wentz said. “I mean, it’s remarkable but at the same time, it doesn’t surprise any of us. We know Darren, we’ve seen him year in and year out, and obviously a setback last year, but he looks like he’s healthy. And you guys see it. We love that guy and we know he’s one of the hardest workers on this team and really in the league. He’s done it year in and year out so we all kind of sit in awe, but at the end of the day, it’s Darren, so what do you expect?

Yeah, this is pretty much what we should expect. 

We saw Sproles in only three games last season before he went down, but in 2016, he accounted for over 1,100 all-purpose yards. 

Coming into this season, which he has already said will be his last in the NFL, Sproles has 19,155 all-purpose yards, which is good for eighth in NFL history. In a blog post earlier this month, Sproles said he has his eyes set on Tim Brown at No. 5. 

Sproles would need 528 all-purpose yards to pass Brown (see story). Based on what we’ve seen from Sproles this summer, that seems possible. 

The guy is just a freak athlete,” Corey Clement said. “He takes care of his body the best way he possibly can. He’s still running around making jukes like he’s 24. That’s a blessing to come back off an injury like that and still look like it never happened to him. That’s one of the coolest things I can ever witness in person.

While we didn’t see Sproles at practice until the spring, there were already clear indications that his recovery was going well before that. 

Check out this Instagram post from April: 

Yeah, that’s impressive. He really is a physical freak. 

The quiet veteran still has the quick feet and has the opportunity to really help the Eagles on special teams and probably even on offense. It’ll be up to Doug Pederson to figure out how to use him, but Pederson never hid the fact that he wanted his Swiss Army Knife back for one more season. 

It would be hard to find a more well-respected player in the Eagles’ locker room. 

This is my first time seeing him being able to practice (since the injury),” Jay Ajayi said. “I’ve been enjoying every part of it. He looks great. It’s just a blessing to be able to practice with him and have him as a teammate. He’s special and I’m glad I get to learn from him. To have him as a teammate is really awesome for me.

It’s not hard to figure out why Sproles decided to come back for a 13th and final NFL season. Just like Jason Peters and Haloti Ngata, there was just no way he was going to end his incredible career on the IR. 

There was no way he was going to let his last NFL play be one where he ended up breaking his arm and tearing his ACL. It’s pretty amazing to see him return and look as good as he has already this summer, but we really shouldn’t be surprised.

“Nothing really amazes me from that guy,” Ertz said. 

Father Time is undefeated, but Sproles is certainly giving him a run for his money. We should have known he would.

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Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at West Chester and the unforgettable memories, like Herschel Walker standing at the top of the steps on the west end of the practice field signing autographs in the blazing heat (with his helmet on) for an hour, until every kid had gotten something signed.

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at Lehigh and how fans could stand literally six feet from the practice field and hear the thud of contact and interact with the players as they stood on the sideline.

But I’m not going to do that because those days are gone forever and no amount of me crying about it is going to bring it back.

And I understand why the Eagles — and more and more NFL teams every year — are holding practices in their own year-round facilities instead of remote college campuses. It makes sense to practice where your film library is stored, where your modern medical and training facilities are housed, where all your equipment and gear is, where your immaculately maintained practice fields are located.

I get it.

What I don’t get is just one open practice for the fans.

One. In a year.

That’s inexcusable.

The Eagles moved from Lehigh to the NovaCare Complex in 2013, when Chip Kelly replaced Andy Reid. The Eagles scheduled five open practices that first summer, then three in 2014 and two each from 2015 through 2018.

And now just one.

Yeah, the $10 ticket fee for the Eagles’ one open practice this summer goes to a great cause. Every penny goes to the Eagles Autism Challenge, a cause that’s close to Jeff Lurie’s heart. The Eagles Autism Challenge raised $3 1/2 million this year, and it’s a terrific event that I’ve participated in the last two years.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Eagles have an opportunity to put on a show for their fans two or three times during training camp, and for reasons they haven't explained, they’ve chosen not to.

The Eagles had no comment on why they've reduced open practices to just one this summer, but I assume it’s because it’s a logistical nightmare loading up all that equipment and moving it across the street for a glorified walkthrough.

It’s a hassle — and presumably an expensive one — for Doug Pederson to lose a valuable practice day in the cozy environment of the NovaCare Complex so Jake Elliott can play catch with fans, Brandon Graham can sign autographs for every kid he can find and everybody can watch in person while Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson light it up.

But this is a franchise worth close to $3 billion, according to Forbes, and these are fans that devote their lives to this football team, buying their jerseys, snagging every ticket the instant it’s available, traveling to their games.

They deserve more than one open practice.

They deserve more than one day to watch their football team with their own eyes.

We all know how hard it is for the average fan to get tickets. If you don’t know someone or already have season tickets of your own or have a whole big pile of money, you’re not going.

The open practices are the only remaining opportunity most fans have to see their heroes up close. To interact with them. To feel like they’re a part of everything.

It’s a long preseason. Training camp starts July 25 and really continues until Aug. 21, when joint practices with the Ravens wrap up.

I find it hard to believe the Eagles can’t find one more day to move their operations across Broad Street for all the people who've helped make this franchise worth close to $3 billion.

We’ve gone from five to three to two and now to one. You can see what direction this is trending. I’m afraid of what’s coming next.

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Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles players will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 24, and the first practice will take place on July 25 at the NovaCare Complex. 

All but one practice will be held at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles will hold just one open practice for fans at Lincoln Financial Field, but this year will charge admission. 

The open practice will be on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m.; it will also be Military Appreciation Night. 

Tickets will be $10 and all proceeds will go to the Eagles Autism Challenge. Tickets can be purchased on TicketMaster.com and went on sale at 10:30 this morning. 

For years, most of the Eagles’ training camp practices were open to fans at Lehigh University and even since the team moved camp to the NovaCare Complex, select practices have been open to fans for free at the Linc. This is the first year the Eagles will charge admission to a training camp practice. Parking for the open practice this year will still be free. 

Last year, the Eagles had two open practices at the Linc. Tickets were required, but they were free of charge. 

According to ESPN, there was internal debate about whether or not to charge admission to practice this year, but, "Ultimately, the desire to further the team's charitable efforts won out."

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