For the first time all season, the Philadelphia Eagles have won back-to-back games. It’s been a long road and one full of setbacks, adversity and unease. But here they sit, 6-6, clinging onto a playoff berth by a thread, fighting for every inch of rope they can get their hands on. If there’s one player who embodies this team’s journey in 2018, it’s Darren Sproles.
It’s been a tough 24 months for the former New Orleans Saint. In 2017, Sproles was looking to build on a successful first season under Doug Pederson and looked poised to do so. That was until he tore an ACL and broke his arm on the same play against the New York Giants. He would be out for the duration season while he recovered, sat on the sidelines, watching on helplessly as his teammates went on the most miraculous run in sporting history to bring the Birds their first ever championship.
Sproles wasn’t done yet however. Not being on the field with his teammates during that iconic night in February left a burning fire to go and win one more ring. The 35-year old was extremely limited during the offseason/preseason due to simply A) not needing an intense training camp and B) yet more injury setbacks.
After playing in the season opener against Atlanta, Sproles suffered a hamstring injury that would cause him to miss the following ten games. A return to practice a few weeks prior was promptly cut short after Sproles re-injured the same Hammy. After announcing he would retire at the end of this year, it seemed as though Sproles wouldn’t get his final rodeo, one that one of the best dual-threat backs in league history thoroughly deserves.
But on a cold Monday Night at the Linc, Sproles did return…and he did so in big fashion. Sproles reached the end zone for the first time since December 22nd 2016, which coincidentally also came against the Giants, the team who would later sideline him. Sproles burst into the end zone, grinding through tackles inside the red zone for a true throwback to the running back of old, the little engine that could.
Doug Pederson walked over to the bench after the touchdown, something he doesn’t usually do, to congratulate the veteran rusher.
“I wanted to go over and just sort of say welcome back and congratulate him.” The Eagles Head Coach said. “He just looked up and just kind of whispered, “Thank you,” to me. He’s such a class act, and a great leader on this football team. Obviously, it’s unfortunate his situation and the injuries that have set him back. But for him to come out tonight and do the things he was able to do, and then the guys — I do believe the guys really wanted to get him a touchdown at some point, you know? It just meant a lot to him, but it meant a lot to the guys as well. So I just wanted him to know from my standpoint how much I appreciate him.”
In many ways, Sproles represents the heart and soul of this team. Even when all hope is lost and the world was ready to close the curtains, Sproles kept pushing for a comeback and an opportunity to play Football for just one more year. Frustrated by season-ending injuries and nagging ones that just won’t unwrap themselves from his future, Sproles was in the building and around the team as much as he could be, leading by example and setting the tone for a team who were also beginning to endure situations where all hope seemed lost.
“Through this injury, he’s just battled, and he’s worked his tail off every single day to get back on the football field.” Pederson continued. “I’m so proud of him and what he’s been through and the adversity to come out and get himself in the end zone and get that touchdown tonight. I think it’s what he needs. I think as an individual, that’s what he needs. It will now catapult him this next week and the remainder of the season, however many games that is. He just epitomizes the heart and soul of our football team, and it was really, really good for us to see that tonight.”
As the Eagles continue to find their balance offensively, the return of Darren Sproles could mean big things for the Eagles. After all, in Wentz’s rookie season, he amassed 438 receiving yards and a further 427 on the ground, combining for 4 touchdowns. Wentz sought explosive solitude in the 14-year veteran and there’s no reason that won’t continue now the offense has such a monumental focus on being balanced.
“Having Darren back is awesome; he’s a little spark for us offensively.” Carson Wentz explained after the game. “I was extremely stoked to see him back in the end zone. It seems like it’s been a while since he’s been out – it’s been a while since him and I got to play together. So having him back in the huddle, having him make some plays like he did definitely gives the offense a little motivation, a little spark. It was great to see him in.”
“That guy is such a good dude, a great teammate, and an unbelievable player.” Jason Kelce added. “I think I speak for everybody in saying that we’re all really happy to have him back out there.”
The Eagles have battled injuries that turned the secondary into a baron wasteland and games that saw their identity evaporate in front of their very eyes. The world turn its back on the Super Bowl Champions, but just like Darren Sproles, the Eagles didn’t turn on themselves and stayed true to what they believed in. As a result, the playoff race is well and truly on.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Liam is a 24-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.
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