DeVonta Smith left the practice field on Saturday after going up for a pass and colliding with a teammate during 11-on-11 drills. The top draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles exited practice with what the team is calling a “minor” leg injury.
Smith, the 10th overall pick in April’s NFL draft, has been garnering tremendous hype so far this summer. He caught an 80-yard bomb from quarterback Jalen Hurts while getting reps in as a punt returner. The former Alabama standout is slated to open the season as one of the team’s starting wide receivers.
His absence on Saturday was ruled precautionary. Head coach Nick Sirianni had been emphasizing red-zone work early in camp as a way to keep the roster healthy.
“Like the availability is the best ability, right? We just need to make sure we’re doing the right things to keep the team healthy,” Sirianni told reporters. “That’s the ‘why’ behind why we start in the red zone, so we weren’t pulling up, throwing go balls, and pulling muscles there.”
Meanwhile, receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside crumpled to the ground early in Saturday’s practice but he’s fine. Jalen Reagor (lower body tightness) and Quez Watkins (non-COVID illness) participated in individual drills after sitting out the first three days.
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Multiple Options at Punt Returner
The Eagles’ primary punt returner in 2020 was receiver Greg Ward, with Reagor jumping in occasionally. Four days into camp, there is no clear cut answer as to whom might take that role this season but there are plenty of options.
Ward and Smith have taken turns back there, along with newcomer Michael Walker, rookie Kenny Gainwell, and veteran Boston Scott.
“I think the more options, the better because you never know what’s going to happen in terms of a game,” special teams coordinator Michael Clay said. “But if we feel good we have two or three guys that can catch, field, punt and in the plus-50 and secure it, I think that’s what we’re trying to strive for out here in practice. Get everyone as comfortable as possible catching both the open field punt and in the plus-50.”
Sirianni Explains Decision to Stop Practice
Sloppy practices won’t fly under Sirianni, especially when he can turn miscues into a teaching moment. He stopped practice on Friday when he saw bad habits forming and explained why he did that prior to Saturday’s session.
“I felt like the defense was having a good day and the offense was having a below-average day,” Sirianni told reporters, “and just wanted them to know that, ‘Hey, whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, when we get in the fourth quarter and it’s tight, you always got to play the next play and the next play.
“And you can’t think about what’s going to happen in two plays from now or next drive and you sure as heck can’t think about what happened the play before.”