PHILADELPHIA — Darren Sproles’ return to the lineup is going to be delayed yet again.
According to a report on ESPN.com, the Eagles running back/punt returner re-injured his hamstring during Wednesday’s practice and will not play in Sunday’s game against Dallas. The team didn’t have an official comment, but Sproles did not practice Thursday.
Sproles hurt his hamstring during a practice in September and has missed the last seven games. Without him, the Eagles will rely on the same running back rotation they’ve been using for most of the season. Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and rookie Josh Adams will share the carries against the Cowboys and for the foreseeable future.
They have combined for 531 yards and three touchdowns on 130 carries (4.1 yards per carry) and 30 receptions with two TDs.
“I talk to Darren almost every day, and he tells us to keep killing it out there,” Smallwood said Thursday. “He’s proud of us and wants us to keep it up.”
The setback also affects the Eagles’ special teams.
The Eagles were confident enough that Sproles would be ready to play that they waived punt returner/wide receiver DeAndre Carter on Tuesday with the expectation he would be re-signed to the practice squad. However, Carter, who averaged an impressive 10.3 yards on 10 punt returns, was claimed off waivers by Houston on Wednesday.
Newly acquired wide receiver Golden Tate could take over that role Sunday. He’s returned 92 punts in his nine-year NFL career for 974 yards (10.8 yards per return), but hasn’t done it full-time since 2015. This season, he had two returns for 15 yards for the Lions after gaining 23 yards on two returns in 2016.
“I haven’t done it much since I was young,” Tate, 30, said Thursday. “I don’t mind doing it. Whatever’s going to help the team win.”
Sproles, 35, missed most of last season, including the Super Bowl, after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and a broken arm against the New York Giants in late September. He contemplated retirement, but re-signed with the Eagles in order to play one more season.
“I’ve missed a lot of stuff because of football,” Sproles said in September. “I was ready to walk away. But once I got hurt, I was thinking of playing one more year so I can leave on my own terms. I don’t want to have any regrets. When I leave the game, I want to feel like I gave it everything I had.”
Sproles was the Eagles’ starting running back in the season opener against Atlanta on Sept. 6. He rushed for 10 yards on five carries, caught four passes for 22 yards and returned three punts for 29 yards in an 18-12 victory.
Now his season, and the rest of his career, are uncertain.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill without him,” Smallwood said. “But we’re up for the challenge.”
Notes: Clement (illness) and cornerbacks Sidney Jones (hamstring) and Jalen Mills (foot) also did not practice Thursday. Tackle Lane Johnson (knee, foot) and tight end Joshua Perkins (illness) were limited.