McMullen: Messaging Remains the Problem with Eagles and Soft-Tissue Injuries
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Miles Sanders is supposed to be a big part of the Eagles' backfield this season but the rookie running back has been grounded for most of on-field OTAs with a hamstring injury.
An NFL Network report last week claimed Sanders would be back involved sometime last week but that never materialized and before Monday's practice, coach Doug Pederson said the Penn State product would again be watching despite James Franklin and his college coaching staff making the trip down for the session.
"I just want to be careful with him," Pederson said, confirming a lower-body issue. "We're not playing for a while. He's engaged in meetings, He's engaged out at practice, watching, and a part of that, but right now I just want to be cautious."
The availability of Sanders, or any other player in early-June for that matter, is never paramount but the Eagles have had some curious soft-tissue injuries over the past two seasons so many jump to conclusions and assume the training and/or medical staffs are doing something wrong when one pops up and begins to linger.
In lieu of Sanders' issue, Pederson was again asked about the organization's handling of soft-tissue injuries and how it's going about trying to lessen the impact they will have on the upcoming season.
"With the data that's out there, it's hard to track,” Pederson admitted on Monday. “I think we're getting more and more kind of caught up with the soft-tissue injuries. We've had extensive history with the ACLs and all that kind of stuff, but now the soft-tissue thing has kind of taken over. So we're collecting more data on it.”
The data collected so far has had an impact and changes to the way the strength and conditioning coaches prepare the players for practice have begun with Pederson citing an increased emphasis on strengthening the core and more time for that staff to work with each individual player.
“We focus a little more on the core,” the coach explained. “We're trying to be proactive with soft tissue, with stretching and core exercises. One of the things I did this spring was give our strength and conditioning a little more time to be a little more proactive in some of this so we could be ahead of the curve and really try to focus on eliminating as many as we can. Obviously, they're going to come up, but we're taking steps to be proactive in it.”
The bigger issue, though, as we've stated before is the communication and how that reflects on the training and medical staffs.
For instance, much was made of how much time Darren Sproles missed with the hamstring injury last season but when Sproles finally did return he admitted he was dealing with "much more" than an ordinary hamstring.
Some fans who have obviously never met Sproles and don't know his legendary workout routine even questioned whether the veteran was milking the injury, all because the Eagles were so clandestine with information.
Then there's the strange case of Mack Hollins, who missed all of last season with what was first described as a groin injury before intimations of a sports hernia and core issue surfaced.
Hollins is still not ready and was rehabbing off to the side on Monday with Pederson pointing to training camp as the goal for Hollins, an extraordinary amount of time to be out with a groin or even after sports-hernia surgery.
“He's continuing his rehab,” Pederson said when discussing Hollins. “He's progressing. I'm not going to get into a lot of the specifics with him, but he's doing well. ... I'm optimistic with him that he'll be there for the start of training camp,”
Although NFL teams are not required to report injuries until the regular season more specifics might alleviate some unnecessary questions about the competency of the medical arm of the organization and the wherewithal of players fighting through seemingly.straitforward soft-tissue injuries.
Pederson said "it's still the same previous injury” for Hollins and claimed no setbacks, however, which only fuels further questions.
“I'm not a doctor and I'm not going to get into all that,” Pederson said. “I don't necessarily understand it, but he's progressing well.”
Perhaps providing someone who does understand the injury like trainer Jerome Reid is the common-sense solution.
The messaging remains the issue for the Eagles not the medical staff.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen