Jordan Mailata showed up at practice Wednesday looking different.
No, he didn’t dye his hair or get a new tattoo. It was his right knee. The brace. It was gone.
Mailata sprained his knee at practice on Sept. 23, missed two games and returned for the Panthers game with a bulky brace protecting his knee both at practice and in games.
He’s played four games since coming back – two at right tackle and the last two back at his usual left tackle spot – and the brace hasn’t left his knee.
Wednesday, it was nowhere to be seen.
Mailata explained why he ditched the brace this week and said his ultimate goal is to play without it.
“I’m just trying to strengthen the knee without the brace, so what I’ve been doing is taping the knee with a lot of tape to try to keep the stability and have a little bit of strength and also have the flexibility of being able to push off that knee,” Mailata said after practice Wednesday.
“I think for me just doing it in practice is going to help me build my strength back up and not rely on that brace. It is a bit risky, but I just think in the long run it’s going to be crucial for me to just keep strengthening that quad, keep strengthening that knee, and not having that brace.
“I feel like it kind of weakens the growth that I’m trying to get. I’m trying to get back to 100 percent. That’s just a personal opinion, but that’s why today I was (practicing) without the brace.”
The Eagles signed Mailata to a four-year, $64 million contract in September, even though he had only started 10 career games. That’s how much they believed in him.
It’s fair to say Mailata’s performance since he returned from the knee hasn’t quite been up to his usual standard. He hasn’t played bad at all, but he hasn’t been quite himself.
And he said Wednesday the brace has something to do with that.
“I notice it,” he said. “It doesn’t allow me to kind of load my knee the way I want to and so (I’m) just trying to figure out the perfect I guess recipe to try and figure out how I can still have the same kick with the brace on and without the brace on.”
Mailata said he’s unsure if he’ll wear the brace Sunday, when the Eagles face the Chargers at the Linc.
“We’ll see,” Mailata said. “We’re tracking. Making notes. Well, I’m making personal notes of how I feel with the brace on, how does it feel without the brace on. Going to take it day-by-day and see how it feels.”
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