There were a number of top players on the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl roster who got championship rings but had to suffer the agony of not playing in the game. Yes, the 11 guys on injured reserve that season are NFL champions, but ask every one of them and you will certainly get the same answer: It’s not the same as playing and winning a title.
On July 19, veteran running back Darren Sproles joined left tackle Jason Peters and quarterback Carson Wentz as players who are getting a second swing at winning a Super Bowl after missing the opportunity two years ago.
“My heart is in Philly. That’s where I want to end my career,” Sproles said through the team. “That team, the city is like a family.”
Like Wentz and Peters, Sproles returns to the team on shaky ground health wise.
The 5-foot-6, 185-pounder played in just three regular season games in 2017 before he suffered a broken arm and a torn ACL on the same play in a game against the New York Giants in Week 3.
He was shut down for the year while the Birds went on to capture the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
In 2018, Sproles missed 10 regular season games due to various injuries, but did return for both playoff games. They were the only two playoff games Sproles appeared in during his five seasons in Philadelphia.
If he can stay off injured reserve, Sproles who is entering his 15th NFL season, could combine with recently acquired wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a unique one-two punch that could keep defensive coordinators up late the night before playing the Eagles.
Sproles and Jackson (5-10, 175 pounds) are tiny ball handlers who can still burn defenses with their speed.
Sproles brings some serious stats to the table this fall. The 36-year-old is of the most prolific yard-gainers in NFL history. Sproles ranks sixth all time in total combined yards with 19,520.
Sproles, who started his career in San Diego in 2005 after being drafted in the fourth round out of Kansas State, must have looked at this Eagles lineup, and after implying he would retire at the end of the last two seasons, found his way on to a roster spot.
“I really want to go out on top. That’s what I really want to do,” Sproles said. “I can’t wait to get back with the guys.”
Sproles will add to a crowded running back room that already has talent.
The Eagles traded with the Chicago Bears for Jordan Howard, a young productive running back who will likely be the starter going into the season, and they drafted Miles Sanders out of Penn State in the second round. The Birds are hoping 2017 rookie standout Corey Clement can return to form, plus Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams, who both had their moments last year and will be fighting for a roster spot.
There are doubts about the readiness of Clement and Sanders to start training camp. Clement is recovering from a knee injury, missed all spring drills and may miss part or all of training camp. Sanders has an injury the Birds have been tight-lipped about, only to say it is not serious. There have also been reports Pederson is not happy with his blocking.
The Eagles released a statement about Sproles a few minutes after he signed the deal.
“We are excited to bring Darren back. It isn’t very often that you have the opportunity to add a player who has the sixth-most total yards in NFL history. He is the ultimate professional, and a leader on and off the field. He will add another proven talent to our running back room. His dynamic punt return skills are second to none.” ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii.