Sproles Signing: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — There's an old Yiddish adage which translated means "Man plans, and God laughs," a nod toward the fact that no matter how careful the planning is, life has a few curve balls in store for everyone.
In the NFL, having a solid plan in place is paramount to success but the same rules apply so maybe the better description of planning in professional football is about contingencies. The top organizations understand the unforeseen is on the horizon and success is dependent on handling whatever adversity comes your way.
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells may have explained it best when giving advice to members of his coaching tree.
"Four or five things happen in pro football every day that you wish wouldn't happen," Parcells explained. "If you can't handle those, you need to get another job."
That sentiment, more than anything else, describes why the 36-year-old Darren Sproles is back in the Eagles' backfield after agreeing to terms late last week before the start of training camp later this week.
Sproles, a Doug Pederson favorite, had been weighing whether to return to play this season and did his typical legendary workout routine at his usual pace back in San Diego with Drew Brees and Chase Daniel, giving the clear indication that the veteran felt there was still gas in the tank.
Philadelphia had seemingly moved on back in April when they selected Miles Sanders in the second round of the draft but the Penn State product missed all of spring work with a hamstring injury putting him behind the curve when it came to learning the offense.
That absence clearly gave the Eagles pause that Sanders would not be able to be the complement to lead back Jordan Howard, at least early in the season, and a concern that Corey Clement is perhaps also not ready for that role. With the championship window open Howie Roseman pulled the trigger on a player Pederson feels very comfortable with.
Sproles will also give Dave Fipp two of the best punt returners of all-time in Sproles and DeSean Jackson.
Last year the timing was a little different and Sproles signed when the draft ended when it became clear the Eagles weren't able to replace him. Roseman also admitted how much his coach trusts the undersized, well-rounded back.
"I think I got the message when Coach would come by my office -- maybe once a day or twice a day -- and say, ‘What's going on with Darren? When are we getting Sproles back?’" Roseman joked.
Many will rightfully point to the fact that Sproles has missed 23 of the Eagles' 37 games over the past two seasons and that aging RBs don't usually turn that trend around late in their careers. Conversely, when Sproles did return last season after missing 10 games with a hamstring issue [a stretch Philadelphia was 4-6 in] he was a big part of the team's late playoff run.
More so, the Eagles just spent $107.9 million guaranteed on the face of the franchise who has his own injury history and picturing a rookie who missed spring ball in blitz pickup for Carson Wentz probably gave Pederson a sleepless night or two out at the American Century Championship.
When evaluating personnel moves it's best not to look at the words and judge the actions.
There is a reason Darren Sproles is back and it’s not because the coaching staff felt comfortable with its RB situation.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen