Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was hoping to have a big year this season and land a lucrative contract.
It’s unlikely he will get that opportunity.
The Eagles confirmed that its top receiver last season suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Saturday's training camp practice at the NovaCare Complex. The injury usually requires season-ending surgery.
“Appreciate all the love and support twitter (family),” Maclin said on Twitter. “Sad day but I have setbacks my entire life. Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback!”
The 25-year-old was entering the final season of the five-year contract he signed as the Eagles’ first-round draft pick in 2009. He decided against holding out of training camp.
“The first five minutes after it happened, everyone in the huddle was shaking their head in disbelief,” Eagles center Jason Kelce told NJ.com Saturday. “It’s a terrible situation.”
According to various Twitter updates, Maclin was hurt during a non-contact drill. The 6-foot, 198-pounder collapsed to the turf during a seven-on-seven segment of practice. Coach Chip Kelly and others helped him up and he was in obvious pain as he was carted off the field. Tackle Jason Peters, who missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, consoled Maclin as he was leaving.
Fellow wide receiver DeSean Jackson told reporters that Maclin was “in a lot of pain” when he went down. Quarterback Michael Vick spotted Maclin out of the corner of his eye.
“Usually when a guy goes down like that it’s something to worry about,” Vick told the Eagles’ web site Saturday.
Maclin was expected to be a key component of Kelly’s high-octane, read-option offense. He was the Eagles’ most productive receiver last season, leading the team in receptions (69), receiving yardage (857 yards) and receiving touchdowns (seven). His 258 total receptions from 2009-2012 were the most by an any Eagles’ receiver in their first four years with the team.
In 2011, he missed most of training camp with an inflammatory virus that forced him to undergo tests for lymphoma, but he came back to play in 13 games and grab 63 passes.
“He’s a great player,” Jackson told the team’s web site Saturday. “He’s done some great things for this organization.”
Besides his onfield contributions, Maclin in also heavily involved in several charities.
He holds annual football camps in West Deptford and his hometown of Kirkwood, Mo. He also created the J-Mac’s Back to School Packs program that provided backpacks full of school essentials to 200 underprivileged families in Kirkwood last year. This past Mother’s Day, he hosted the first Maclin’s Mother’s Day Miracles in which he helped five boys who are being raised by single mothers surprise their moms with flowers, a spa day, dinner gift certificates and Eagles tickets.
He’s viewed by his teammates as one of the team’s most dedicated and determined players.
“You hate it more for that individual than for its impact on the team because you know how much, especially someone like Mac, who was all-in, eat, breathe, drink, sleeps football and has done a lot for this team and wants to do a lot more,” Eagles guard Evan Mathis told the team’s website. “It’s going to be hard on him mentally if it’s bad.”
Without Maclin, Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will be counting on other wide receivers to step in and step up. Riley Cooper will likely get the first chance to join Jackson in the starting lineup, but will be challenged by Arrelious Benn, who was acquired in a trade from Tampa Bay, as soon as Benn recovers from the knee injury he suffered on Friday.
Jason Avant will remain in the slot. Damaris Johnson, free-agent pickup Ifeanyi Momah and rookie free agent Russell Shepard III are also vying for roster spots. The team signed former Arena League wide receiver Dave Ball earlier Saturday. Ball played for Kelly at the University of New Hampshire.
Jackson, who drew attention for making a rap music video entitled “Diamonds On My Neck” during the offseason, has been one of the early standouts of camp. In the process, he silenced the critics who questioned his offseason work ethic.
“One thing about DeSean that I’m most impressed with is how he came back in shape,” Kelly said Friday. “He did great in the conditioning test. It proves to me he spent a lot of time this summer investing in himself. That’s what we talked about before (the team had its summer vacation). We said the sky’s the limit for him, and he could be a real special player in this league, but he’s got to make that decision that he wants to be.
“I think what he did, just watching where he is right now and his pace and tempo as he’s running around practice right now, he’s what we want. We tell that to our players all the time, we want our guys to be like super balls, not tomatoes. The super ball bounces all the time. He’s the ultimate super ball. He bounces all around the field.”
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