Ronald Darby Speeds Toward Summer Return
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — When the Eagles' mandatory minicamp begins next Tuesday it will be seven months to the day Ronald Darby tore his ACL, not enough time for the speedy cornerback to participate in practice but far enough along to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Darby, 25, has set Week 1 against the Washington Redskins as his goal and the Florida State product seems self-assured in that assessment after reaching another milestone at OTAs on Wednesday, stretching with his teammates.
From there it was off to a side field where Darby continues his work, along with some other recovering players like Corey Clement and Mack Hollins, under the watchful eyes of Shirleen Mansoori, the team's director or rehab.
After practice, Darby gave an update on his progress to reporters and pegged training camp as a reasonable goal to be back in the mix at practice, at least in a limited fashion.
"I’m right where I need to be," Darby said. "Everything is going good, no setbacks. [I'm] putting up good numbers each week in rehab."
Speed is the greatest trait in Darby's toolbox and the corner isn't worried about losing a step even after a serious leg injury. He's already been cleared to sprint straight ahead and has reached 22 MPH, one behind his pre-injury form, a blazing 23 MPH.
"You just gotta wake up the muscles," Darby assessed. "... I feel good. I feel real good."
Pegged for a big-money deal on the free-agent market, the knee injury limited interest and Darby decided the best option was the familiarity of Philadelphia and Jim Schwartz's defense, signing a one-year, prove-it deal for $4.5 million which can reach higher with incentives.
It wasn't the 10-figure deal a healthy Darby could have expected but it does give him an opportunity to test the market again next year where the pot at the end of the rainbow will appear if he can stay healthy.
"I’m comfortable here," Darby explained. "I know I’m coming off this injury, why not be somewhere where you’re comfortable, know the system? And the only thing I have to worry about is getting healthy to be able to play at my full potential. I don’t really have time to worry about trying to get healthy and trying to learn a new system, try to learn new coaches, players."
With Darby and his typical running mate at CB, Jalen Mills, both rehabbing injuries, third-year corners Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas have been running with the first-team on the outside with the latter filling in for Darby. Starting slot CB Avonte Maddox also got a look outside at LCB on at least one day with Sidney Jones slipping inside.
From the coaching staff's perspective, it wants Jones pushing Mills, which could be a real battle, and Douglas supplementing Darby on the right side.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen