Eagles Camp Notes: Eagles playing it safe with DeMarco Murray
Most of the hoopla surrounding Eagles training camp has centered on quarterback Sam Bradford and his attempt to return from back-to-back ACL injuries. And it's been so far so good for the oft-injured signal caller, who has been able to take the first-team repetitions on a daily basis. There have been no veteran maintenance days for Bradford or a scaled-back workload.
The same can't be said for the NFL's reigning rushing king, who was on the sidelines again Thursday and has been a spotty participant throughout camp despite being ostensibly healthy.
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Hydration issues sidelined Murray at the beginning of camp and other excuses like illness have been used to explain the former Cowboys' limited participation. When on the field Murray is held out of team drills at times in favor of backups Ryan Mathews or Darren Sproles while working off to the side with trainers.
The Eagles don't have to report injuries at this point and using sports science and stomach aches as an excuse for giving Murray a light load on the practice field is disingenuous at best but the All-Pro was concise earlier this week when asked if the reduced schedule is the result of some kind of malady.
"No," he claimed before breaking into a little explanation.
"I think there's a difference between getting the reps you need and getting too many reps," said Murray, who touched the football nearly 500 times while in North Texas last season. "There are some situations where you know we feel that it's a scheme that I'm in there and there are certain situations where I'm comfortable in some things."
So the reality is the Eagles are trying to get Murray up to speed in a new offense while managing legs that saw some significant mileage put on them in Dallas.
It's an effort to keep their best skill-position player as fresh as possible for the regular season and a nod toward the team's imposing depth at the position.
"I think (coach Chip Kelly) watches enough film and sees me out here to know what I am working on, and some things I need to work on constantly," Murray said. "Obviously, there are some things I am more comfortable doing. I think the whole coaching staff, they have a good grasp on how to use certain players and know what to throw at them."
Managing a star running back's workload in training camp is hardly an innovative approach in today's NFL environment. Out in Minnesota Adrian Peterson hasn't had a preseason tote in years and veterans -- even ones with new teams -- don't need as much live repetition.
"You always want to be out there for every rep, but you have to smart and make sure you are doing the right things, and not trying to kill each other out here," Murray said.
Remember that Kelly runs a run-first offense under the best of circumstances and he now has a quarterback with balky knees along with a young wide receiver group that is talented but simply not proven at the NFL level.
So Murray night as well get a red jersey and join Bradford and the other quarterbacks because he is off limits.
"We're aware of what last year was all about," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said, "but we kind of train and we monitor our training and we kind of know what we expect from all of our players. We feel good about where he's at."
THURSDAY CAMP CHATTER:
-Spent a significant amount of time watching the 1-on-1 drills with the receivers and defensive backs. Rookie corner Eric Rowe ignited the defensive side when he blanketed Riley Cooper down the sideline and came up with an interception. Rowe also got the first-team reps at the nickel back spot while veteran E.J. Biggers was with the No. 2s and Jaylen Watkins with the third team.
-Sproles remains incredibly shifty even at 32 and abused Malcolm Jenkins off the slot in one instance. If you don't get your hands on the 5-foot-6, 11-year vet at the line of scrimmage it's over.
-Andrew Gardner was at right guard again with the first-team so he might be distancing himself a bit in that competition, although the rotation has generally moved along after two days so all eyes will be on John Moffitt, who seems to be settling in as the main competition. Matt Tobin and Julian Vandervelde are doing more cross-training at different positions so they might be being prepared to be backups.
-Bradford's ball placement in 7-on-7s continues to be superb. Despite Jeff Fisher's hyperbole, however, the ball does hit the ground in every practice and team drills have been more up and down for the starting QB. He had one ugly three-play stretch where he shot for Nelson Agholor each time but he and the rookie were just not on the same page. So, there is work to be done on the chemistry front.
-Agholor is closing the gap with Josh Huff and has been with the No. 1s for two of the past three days. Veteran Miles Austin also got a few more looks with the top group..
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen