Jay Ajayi Set to Return vs. Titans
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Jay Ajayi wasn't mincing any words after injuring his back in Week 2 at Tampa Bay.
The veteran running back told The Athletic's Bo Wulf that "My s@#$'s fucked up, I gotta go see the trainers," after the loss to the Buccaneers.
Turns out Ajayi suffered what he described as a small fracture in his back, likely a transverse process fracture, according to former San Diego Chargers team physician Dr. David Chao, an injury more than a few high-profile quarterbacks have had including Derek Carr and Cam Newton in recent years.
Last season star Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen played in the NFC Championship game with a similar injury just one week after suffering it against New Orleans but wasn't terribly effective.
There is no risk of further injury, however, and after missing last Sunday's game against the Colts Ajayi certainly seems on track to play this weekend in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.
“It might sound bad, but he’s a tough kid," coach Doug Pederson, who had a similar injury during his playing games, said when discussing Ajayi before practice on Friday. "[He} doesn’t want to miss another [game].”
Ajayi returned to practice on Thursday after spending the previous day by himself on a separate field working with a trainer.
"It feels good to be back," Ajayi told reporters gathered around his locker on Thursday. "It's always tough watching other guys go out to work and play in the game and you feel you can contribute, so it definitely feels good to be healthy enough to be practicing and getting ready for the game."
And one week of rest seemed to settle down the back enough to where Ajayi feels ready to go against the Titans and a tough 3-4 front.
"It was realistically just listening to the doctors, the time frame, and just listening to my body," Ajayi explained. "Once my body told me I was good enough to play and move and feel good, then it was just about coordinating with the trainers and making sure things fall in line and I've been good enough to get out there and I'm ready to play."
The same is not true for backfield mate Darren Sproles, who looks like he will miss his third consecutive game with a pesky hamstring injury. Pederson indicated Sproles is "getting close" but is “just not there yet.”
Receiver Alshon Jeffery, meanwhile, will miss his second consecutive day of practice with an illness that Pederson described as a 24-to-48 bug going around the NovaCare Complex and one that also affected Michael Bennett earlier in the week.
Jeffery has missed the first three games of the season while rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery and was cleared for contact this week with his first full practice of the year being on Wednesday before the illness hit.
“He’s sick again,” Pederson said. “Speaking to our doctors this morning, it’s about a 24-48 hour deal. We’re hoping it runs its course pretty soon.”
Pederson seemed to think Jeffery could still be online to play against Tennessee if he's healthy enough for Saturday's walkthrough but there also has to be a concern the bug could spread to others.
"Really, it starts with me when I start seeing it happen," the coach said when asked about limiting the illness. "Just addressing the team, making sure that we’re washing hands and covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze. Whatever you can do. There’s a lot of people, a lot of people in an organization, especially around a football team. Sometimes you have to quarantine a guy and maybe send him home with meds and get him hydrated and rested and hopefully he’s back the next day. Take the proper steps to make sure that nobody else gets it."
As for injured safety Rodney McLeod, Pederson confirmed that the veteran did have knee surgery, and will be on the shelf for a significant period of time although the Eagles are still mulling over any roster moves.
In the short term that likely means Mcleod to injured reserve and Tre Sullivan being promoted from the practice squad at some point but Pederson admitted: “We’re looking [outside the organization], it’s not like we’re not.”
For now the 33-year-old Corey Graham is expected to be next to Malcolm Jenkins on the back end and Deiondre' Hall, a trade pickup from Chicago earlier this month, could get a role in some sub-packages.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen