Eagles

Rethinking retirement, Darren Sproles mentoring Eagles' young RBs at OTAs

Rethinking retirement, Darren Sproles mentoring Eagles' young RBs at OTAs

As last season was coming to a close, with the Eagles set to miss the playoffs for a third straight year, Darren Sproles sounded resigned to retiring following the 2017 campaign. Now that it's May and the Eagles have a new lease on life, suddenly Sproles isn't quite convinced this year will be his finale in the NFL after all.

"We're gonna see," Sproles said in the locker room after practice Monday. "Right after we make the playoffs, then come back and ask me."

Sproles never said 2017 was definitely going to be his last but admitted there was mounting pressure from his family, specifically his two daughters. Five months later, he's joining the Eagles for organized training activities at the NovaCare Complex, a voluntary offseason program he chose to skip a year ago.

"[The Eagles] wanted me here for the young guys, so they could learn from me," Sproles said. "I said, 'Yeah, that's fine.'"

Sproles came into the league with the San Diego Chargers in 2005 and benefited from mentors such as Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and two-time Pro Bowler Michael Turner. Now the 13-year veteran wants to "give back" and set a similar example for his Eagles teammates.

“The main thing I tell them — it's really just the more you can do," Sproles said. "You want to show them you can catch punts, you can catch kickoffs, you can play receiver. It's just the more you can do. You'll be in this league a long time."

No doubt, the Eagles are hoping fourth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey can shadow Sproles and pick up a thing or two to help speed up his development this offseason. The rookie out of San Diego State is being groomed for a similar role as a "move" player who can take handoffs out of the backfield or line up at wide receiver.

"We want to get him in space," Sproles said. "We get him in space, he can do some things for us."

In addition to Pumphrey, the Eagles also have Wendell Smallwood and Byron Marshall entering their second season, as well as undrafted rookie Corey Clement. There are a lot of eager young minds in the running backs room.

Fortunately, Sproles is not alone. The addition of LeGarrette Blount in May puts the Eagles in the rare position of having two backs on the roster in their thirties who can impart wisdom and share their knowledge with up-and-coming players.

"They ask you a lot of questions, so we try to tell them whatever they want to know," Sproles said. "That's the good thing about having us in the room."

Sproles also believes Blount can play a pivotal role for the Eagles on the field.

"We need to close games out," Sproles said. "You need that pounder to keep the clock moving, keep the chains moving. He can do that."

While Sproles is focused on teaching the young guys and making the playoffs, he's also taken time to reflect on the career. Whether 2017 is his last season or not, the time to call it quits is approaching.

Sproles admits he has a different perspective now and is trying to enjoy his time at OTAs. With his 34th birthday approaching on June 20 and this being the final year of his contract with the Eagles, he also has goals on how he wants to walk away from the game.

"You don't want to be forced out," Sproles said. "You want to leave on your own terms.

“Once you get over 30 in this league, they try to kick you out.”

So far, the Eagles have shown no desire to give Sproles the boot. In fact, his 94 carries in 2016 were a career high, and he finished with 865 total yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. The three-time Pro Bowl selection averaged 13.2 yards per punt return as well.

Of course, Sproles is essentially training his potential replacement with the Eagles in Pumphrey. As long as Sproles continues to produce at that clip, he should have no problem finding work in the NFL, regardless of age.

Eagle Eye podcast: Another injury the Eagles couldn’t afford

us_ee_jernigan.png
USA Today Images

Eagle Eye podcast: Another injury the Eagles couldn’t afford

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast presented by Nissan, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro are joined by Ray Didinger to look at the loss of Tim Jernigan and other takeaways from the loss to the Falcons. 

Why hasn’t Miles Sanders started faster? Was that really Jim Schwartz blitzing that much? 

And Roob and Dave’s bold predictions aren’t looking great so far. 

• Tim Jernigan reportedly has a broken foot
• Other injured players leave questions
• Miles Sanders is looking like a rookie
• What made Jim Schwartz blitz so much? 
• Isaac Seumalo struggles big-time vs. Atlanta 
• An early look-ahead to the Lions 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles' Tim Jernigan reportedly broke his foot vs. Falcons

Eagles' Tim Jernigan reportedly broke his foot vs. Falcons

Updated 2:30 p.m.

Tim Jernigan has a small crack in his foot, confirmed by NBC Philadelphia's John Clark. While he does not require surgery, he is expected to miss about a month.

Jernigan played only 26 snaps before leaving the Eagles-Falcons game in Atlanta.

It’s the latest blow to the talented but oft-injured 26-year-old defensive tackle, who has played only seven games since the Super Bowl.

Jernigan is the second defensive tackle the Eagles have lost in two weeks, and a position of tremendous depth is now dangerously thin. Malik Jackson, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract, and was starting opposite Fletcher Cox, is out for the year, also with a foot injury. He went on Injured Reserve after the Redskins game.

The Eagles cut ties with Jernigan after last season by declining the option in his contract and then brought him back at a bargain-basement price of $1.25 million in an incentive-laden deal. Jernigan was originally scheduled to make $11 million this year, $12 million the next two years.

Jernigan missed most of the 2018 season with a mysterious back injury that he suffered during the offseason that neither he nor the team has explained.

Jernigan had one of the Eagles’ two sacks so far this year, against the Redskins.

With Jernigan and Jackson both out, the Eagles currently have just Fletcher Cox, who is playing but still working back from a foot injury from the Saints playoff game, and Hassan Ridgeway at defensive tackle, along with Akeem Spence, who just joined the team last week and played 21 snaps against the Falcons.

Bruce Hector, who played in eight games last year, is on the practice squad. Hector played 82 snaps on defense a year ago. He joined the Eagles last year as an undrafted free agent, was traded to the Cards for safety Rudy Ford last month, then signed to the Eagles’ practice squad on Sept. 1 after the Cards released him. Ford remains on the Eagles’ 53-man roster.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles