DeMeco Ryans still wants to play
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Former Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans remains unsigned as we speed toward NFL training camps but the veteran, who is known for his leadership skills, still hopes to continue his career in 2016.
Speaking at his charity gold tournament in his native Alabama, the 31-year-old former two-time Pro Bowl selection understands the reality, however, in that he did not look completely healthy last season as he tried to recover from a second Achilles injury.
"Either way, I'm happy spending time with the family," Ryans told Alabama.com. "It's just a blessing for me to be able to play 10 years in the NFL and have a great career. I have no regrets about it, so it's great either way. If I could play again, that'll be great. If not, that's great as well."
Ryans was released by the Eagles back in February after his 10th professional season and his fourth in Philadelphia, which unfortunately turned out to be his worst. The former University of Alabama star played in 14 games, starting 13 and amassed 68 tackles and an interception while playing in exactly 50 percent of the snaps.
What looked like one of the Eagles' deepest positions before the 2015 season began turned out to be a sore spot as Ryans struggled to regain his explosion while mixing and matching inside with Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and rookie Jordan Hicks in Bill Davis' disappointing 3-4 scheme.
With the Eagles transitioning back to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the surprising Hicks is penciled in as the starter for 2016 but he has significant injury concerns of his own after missing a significant portion of time last season with a torn pec and struggling with various leg ailments in offseason work.
With Kendricks moved to the weak side, Alonso in Miami and Ryans hitting the links veteran special-teamer Najee Goode and rookie seventh-round pick Joe Walker are currently the backups to Hicks.
But, despite a lack of proven depth Philadelphia has shown no interest in bringing back a player who was among the most respected in its locker room for a number of reasons.
From a football perspective a backup LB needs to help on special teams and obviously Ryans would not be able to do that at this stage of his career but more so, the higher-ups believe Ryans is done physically.
"Mufasa," however, disagrees even if he never gets the opportunity to prove it.
"Like the Game 7 for the (NBA) title, you want to be in that position as a true competitor," Ryans said. "That's what you dream about as a kid -- playing in the championship game when it's all on the line and trying to get the ring. So that's something I look forward to. But if it doesn't happen, I'm fine."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen