The Eagles were blowing out the New York Jets Sunday, but it didn’t prevent the injury bug from biting down.
Veteran running back Darren Sproles went down in the third quarter with a quad injury. He had been the team’s lead punt returner and moved into fifth place all-time in the first half. The Eagles were leading 24-0 at the time of the injury.
Darren Sproles Loves Philadelphia
Darren Sproles wasn’t pulling any punches. He’s back in Philadelphia for one thing: “I want to win that Super Bowl.” Sproles, who signed a one-year, $1.03 million contract, with the Eagles compared his return to a family reunion.
“We’re all like a family [in Philadelphia],” Sproles said. “From the locker room, from the front office, fans … Once you have been here, you don’t want to go anywhere else.”
The 14-year veteran has been pretty open throughout the offseason about his desire to play for the Eagles. Even after head coach Doug Pederson hinted that the team had moved on from Sproles, the 36-year-old continued to press the issue. According to The News Journal‘s Martin Frank, Sproles had serious interest from four other NFL teams but “he was only coming back to the Eagles or not at all.” He’ll primarily serve as the Eagles’ fourth running back and return specialist.
Chargers, Saints Not All in the Family
Sproles ranks sixth on the NFL’s all-time list for all-purpose yardage leaders, only 162 yards behind Tim Brown and 2,044 yards in back of Emmitt Smith. This will likely be the diminutive running back’s last year in the league, so catching Smith is out of the question. However, he should be able to pass Brown in no time — pencil in that September 26 Thursday night showdown in Green Bay as a great opportunity to move up the record books.
“My heart is in Philly,” Sproles said. “That is where I want to end my career, that team, the city is like family. Once you have been here, you don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Nowhere else, huh? Sproles was speaking from the heart but did he take a few unintentional shots at his other two former teams? Remember, Sproles had been linked to both the Chargers and Saints before signing with the Eagles.
Sproles started his career in San Diego and grew up a player there after the Chargers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He spent five seasons in California where he established a reputation as an explosive dual-threat running back and return man (1,636 combined return yards, punts and kickoffs).
From there, Sproles followed Drew Brees to New Orleans and quickly earned the former Chargers quarterback’s trust as a dynamic pass-catcher out of the backfield. Sproles racked up 3,048 yards (rushing, receiving) with the Saints from 2011 until 2013 before landing in Philadelphia. Brees and Sproles shared a special bond and remain close friends.
“I think a Darren Sproles only comes around once in your lifetime, in my career and in everybody’s career,” Brees told Mike Garafolo in 2014. “There may be another one 15, 20 years from now. But there’s not many guys like Darren Sproles. He’s a special player, he’s a special person, he’s a special teammate.”
Breaking Ankles in Pop Warner League
The Eagles remained Sproles’ first choice and the team apparently felt the same way. One day after the announcement of his return, the team’s official Twitter account reached far back into the archives and pulled out some footage of Sproles “breaking ankles” in Pop Warner play. In the footage, Sproles was wearing his trademark No. 43 and running all over the kids at Olathe North High School in Kansas. It looks familiar.