PHILADELPHIA – The sports science can help. It almost certainly doesn’t hurt.
But human bodies are different and injuries are different. There’s an element of luck – good and bad – that simply can’t be controlled no matter how smart or innovative your approach.
“That's a huge part of this league," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “Can your good players make it to the games and are they healthy? We spend an inordinate amount of time in terms of monitoring and maintaining our players. I think it's the reality of what you deal with. But we think about it, talk about it and try to troubleshoot injuries and situations that come up all the time.”
And yet, safety Earl Wolff has continued to struggle in his return from knee surgery late last season. Wolff went to see a doctor about the knee, so he missed the last two days of practice. It isn’t clear if Wolff’s knee will ever be right.
“I don't look at it as frustrating,” Kelly said. “I think for Earl, it's frustrating. For us, we just have to make evaluations based upon how they're presented. It's the same thing with (inside linebacker) Travis Long. We had tremendous hope for Travis. I feel bad for the player. But the only thing we can do is evaluate who's available to you.”
Wolff’s knee, which underwent mini-microfracture surgery, has been bothering him. Long, who tore his ACL last preseason, tore it again at the beginning of training camp.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have a huge amount riding on a player in a similar situation. Quarterback Sam Bradford has torn his left ACL twice in two years. The Eagles have been cautious in the way they’ve brought him along. While the sports science aspects have been part of that, it seems obvious that luck is in the mix as well.
“We had a plan during the offseason,” Bradford said. “I was fairly limited during OTAs, knowing that our goal was to be ready for training camp. Until you get out here and go through it, you’re really not sure how your knee is going to hold up. Through the first three weeks, it’s held up great. There hasn’t been any swelling. I haven’t had to sit out any days. I haven’t had to take time off.”
“It's kind of what we anticipated,” Kelly said. “It’s the plan we had for him all along, that he would be ready to go at the start of preseason camp. He's done it and he’s had no ill effects. There's never been any day where we go, ‘Hey, his knee is bothering him, we need to take days off,’ or anything like that.”
Bradford is scheduled to make his first appearance in a game Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Kelly wouldn’t say that officially, but his reason for that is simple: There is good luck and bad luck involved.
“We have training today and training tomorrow,” Kelly said. “So if Sam rolls his ankle today, he's not going to play on Saturday.”