Jason Kelce understands exactly what Andrew Luck has been going through.
He’s been going through a lot of it himself.
That endless cycle of injury / rehab / injury / rehab that Luck spoke of when he explained his retirement on Sunday is something Kelce’s been stuck in in most of his career.
Now, because he’s a center and not a quarterback, he’s been able to play through most of his injuries.
But they're there. They're there 24-7.
And as he prepares for his ninth season, the 31-year-old Kelce can certainly sympathize with the Colts’ quarterback, who is only 29.
It sucks,” Kelce said. “It’s definitely part of the game. Pain in itself is a pretty depressing thing and having to deal with it contsantly, having to go through that, is something that’s not fun, and you’re always constantly weighing how much that’s bringing you down vs. all the other joys you get out of the game, and obviously Andrew made the decision that he’s kind of done with it. I think anybody who plays football at this level or in general can understand – especially once you’ve been playing a long time and once you’ve been through the ringer. You understand what guys are going through, and happy that he’s finally at peace with that (decision).
After playing last year with a broken foot, a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee and a torn elbow, Kelce considered walking away from the game before he ultimately decided to keep playing.
He said at this point -- after eight seasons, 110 games and too many injuries to keep track of -- he ponders retirement after every season.
Last year was a grind, for sure,” Kelce said. “It’s going to continue. There’s always pain in this league. This league has a 100 percent injury rate. I think you try to get used to it, and then as you play longer you have more and more things that just add up. … It sounds like (Luck) was enduring a lot and he was tired of it.
Kelce isn’t technically injured right now with two weeks before the Eagles’ opener. But he has chronic pain in his left knee that just isn’t going to go away.
So the challenge becomes managing the pain instead of eliminating it.
I think my knee in particular has been bothering me for a couple years and it’s nothing that bothers me on game day, just once-in-a-while little nagging type things. As we’ve understood what causes that and as we’ve understood exercises and things to alleviate that it’s gotten better, so even though it might flare up more now as I’m getting older, I think we understand how to treat it and make it feel better so it’s not as nagging as it has been in the past.
Doug Pederson has managed Kelce’s practice time wisely this summer, giving him enough work to be prepared for the season but also giving him three load management days over the duration training camp for full recovery from the grind.
“I think (it’s great) for guys like me, guys like (Jason Peters), who have a lot of wear and tear on them," Kelce said. "Don’t get me wrong, there’s still an important aspect of getting physical reps and conditioning, it’s still very much important, but being physically at your best on game day is pretty important as well.”
Kelce is a two-time all-pro and a two-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl parade hero.
He could walk away now and be considered the greatest center in Eagles history. Hall of Famers Alex Wojciechowicz and Jim Ringo both played center for the Eagles but both were only here for four years at the end of their careers.
But Kelce said he’s as stoked for the 2019 season as he’s ever been. Two weeks before the opener, he's all in.
You always have the same fire, and I think even Andrew (Luck) still has the same fire, but that fire didn’t over-match the depressingness of the pain that he had to endure,” Kelce said. “I’m the same guy that I’ve always been. I love going out there and playing ball, I love playing with the guys next to me, I love coming to work every single day, so from that respect I’m very much looking forward to playing another year.
Kelce is an all-time Eagle. It’s fun having him around, and he’s still one of the best centers in the NFL.
With some smart work by the team’s doctors and trainers, he won’t be following Luck into retirement any time soon.
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