Eagles

Zach Ertz's non-stop message to Darren Sproles

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Zach Ertz's non-stop message to Darren Sproles

Zach Ertz begs Darren Sproles every chance he gets.

Pleeeeeeease don’t retire!

Sproles, 35, has said 2018 would be his final season in the NFL, but he’s backed off that a little bit this season, saying only that he’ll decide when the season is over.

Sproles missed most of last season with a broken arm and torn ACL and missed the bulk of this season with a hamstring injury.

Since he returned for the first Redskins game, the Eagles are 4-1 and Sproles has 248 yards and three touchdowns on just 40 touches.

On Sunday in Chicago, Sproles will play his first playoff game in an Eagles uniform.

Oh yeah, I’m in his ear,” Ertz said. “We sit next to each other in special teams meetings, front row, and I’m just always in his ear, saying, ‘Man, you got another four (years) in you. I think him and Frank Gore are in the same class and the Dolphins film was on and I was like, ‘Man, he’s definitely coming back, he already said it. You can’t let him beat you.’

Ertz said he’s noticed that teams aren’t able to cover him the same way when Sproles is also in the game.

“If Sproles and I are in the game together, most of the time they’re going to have to determine who their best inside cover guy is going to guard, and most of the time, it’s an advantage for the other guy,” Ertz said. “That’s why I love playing with him and I don’t want him to retire any time soon.”

Sproles is finishing his 14th NFL season. He has 19,520 all-purpose yards, which is sixth-most in NFL history:

23,546 … Jerry Rice
23,330 … Brian Mitchell
21,803 … Walter Payton
21,564 … Emmitt Smith
19,682 … Tim Brown
19,520 … Darren Sproles

So he only needs 480 yards for 20,000 and only 163 to pass Brown and move into the all-time top-5.

There’s something special about Sproles. To see a guy that size — 5-foot-6, 190 pounds — playing at this level, at this age is astounding.

The joy he plays with is I think it always resonates with the guys,” Ertz said. “Everyone kind of saw the struggle he was enduring trying to overcome the hamstring injury. He was extremely close to playing a couple times, then he’d have a minor setback and he would be crushed. So when he finally came back, everyone was so excited for him. We knew how hard he worked, we knew how great a teammate he is. He’s always making an impact. I think he’s one of the best we’ve had in pass protection in my time here. He’s making an impact whether he’s getting touches or not. He’s special.

Sproles’ 4.9 career rushing average is 15th-highest in NFL history among non-QBs with at least 500 career attempts.

His 547 catches are 10th-most ever among running backs.

And Ertz isn’t ready to see him hang up the ol’ cleats.

“Darren is a guy I feel like you need him each and every week,” he said.

He paused, smiled, then added: “For years to come.”

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Why Eagles will miss joint practices this summer

Why Eagles will miss joint practices this summer

We learned two things on Tuesday night about the NFL’s restrictions for training camps this summer:

One is that NFL teams will reportedly be required to stay at their own facilities this summer. That won’t be a big deal for the Eagles who haven’t held training camp at Lehigh University since 2012. 

But the other probably will affect them. 

Based on a memo sent by commissioner Roger Goodell to all 32 teams on Tuesday night, joint practices will be prohibited this year. 

While this decree makes sense when we’re talking about limiting exposure during the COVID-19 age, it could throw a wrinkle in the Eagles’ summer plans. While we don’t know for sure that the Birds were going to hold joint practices, we do know Doug Pederson is quite fond of them. 

The Eagles practiced with the Dolphins in 2017 and the Ravens in 2019. The only reason they didn’t have joint practices in 2018 was because the schedule didn’t work out. 

And this year, an obvious joint practice opponent would have been the Patriots, who come to Philly for Week 3 of the preseason. The Patriots held joint practices from 2012-17 and held joint practices with two teams last summer. They practiced with the Eagles in 2013. 

The Patriots open their 2020 preseason schedule with the Lions and head coach Matt Patricia, their former defensive coordinator. They also held joint practices with the Lions last year too, so perhaps the Patriots would have practiced with them. But they could have held double joint practices again this year if allowed. 

The Eagles also open their preseason against Frank Reich’s Colts and then go to Miami for Week 2. They obviously have a history with Reich and they held joint practices with the Dolphins a few years ago. So there were plenty of options this summer. 

But you can forget all that. 

So what will change now that we know the Eagles can’t hold joint practices? 

Well, they’re probably going to have to play a little harder during the preseason, especially in the third preseason game. Historically, that third preseason game has been the dress rehearsal game. But last year, Pederson got a lot of that work in during the joint practices with the Ravens.

Pederson said coaches could actually evaluate better in joint practices than they could during preseason games. 

"Yeah, because in practice sometimes you don't get all the situations in a game that you'd like to see your players in," Pederson said last summer. "So practices, I can set practices up that way. I can set them up hard. I can set them up where we're in pads, or going live, whatever it might be that we can really get a true evaluation of a player.

"The only real change from a game to a practice is in a game you don't get to do it over. At least in a practice setting, if we make a mistake, we can line up and do it again, and so we can correct that mistake right away.  In preseason games, we can't do that. We get a little bit better evaluation in practice in that case."

Another element the Eagles will miss from joint practices is the break in monotony. It gets old facing your teammates in practice for five to six weeks and going against another team can provide a boost. 

For now, the Eagles are fully planning to begin their training camp at the NovaCare Complex in late July. They have held their entire offseason program virtually. Pederson has previously said the Eagles will need a full training camp to prepare for an on-time start to the 2020 season.

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How the NBA playoff schedule could create insane overlap with 2020 NFL season

How the NBA playoff schedule could create insane overlap with 2020 NFL season

The NBA's Board of Governors is expected to approve a 22-team proposal from NBA commissioner Adam Silver this week, bringing basketball back in late July after four and a half months off.

There's so much to unpack, but one of the more interesting nuances in the unique proposal is pretty clear.

This fall, the NBA will intersect with the NFL, and it will be wild.

The proposed date for a hypothetical Game 7 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for Oct. 12, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi, which is the final day of the NFL's Week 5:

That means, for five weeks, sports fans will toggle back and forth between meaningful NFL football and playoff basketball.

What if the Sixers somehow go on a deep playoff run? Could we be watching Sixers playoff games and early-season Eagles games on the same days?

Looking at the lengths of the most recent conference finals and NBA finals series, the Sixers would likely need to reach the conference finals in order to overlap with the Eagles' regular season games.

(I know that those who watched the Sixers' 2019-20 regular season can't imagine that scenario, but you never know.)

The 2019 NBA Finals was on pace to play seven games in 18 days, meaning a seven-game Finals series could possibly start on Sept. 25, two days before the Eagles host the Bengals in Week 3.

Last year, the league put five days between the conference finals and the NBA Finals, and the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals took 15 days to play six games. Could a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals start on Sept. 8 and end on Sept. 20, the same day the Eagles host the Rams? That, too, is possible.

Of course, this is simply going off what happened last year, when the league was operating normally and also building its schedule to account for travel days. Since this year's NBA playoffs will be held in one location, and without much wiggle room, the schedule might be a bit different.

I'd imagine everyone in charge of scheduling sports for late September and early October will try to keep the Finals aways from Sundays, meaning Philly sports fans' craziest scenario would be riding the high of a Game 4 NBA Finals victory (?) into a big Sunday Night Football road matchup with the 49ers.

Which would still be wild.

And this is all before you remember the Flyers will be playing playoff hockey this year, likely beginning their postseason in late July or early August, and a potential shortened MLB season could also be underway.

The picture will round into shape better when the playoffs actually begin and the series take shape. But after extended break, it seems September and October could be quite a time for sports fans.

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