Father Time is undefeated.
He beats even the fastest runners to the finish line, strikes out hitters, knocks out boxers.
Oh, a few athletes have been able to take him into the later rounds — Tom Brady, George Foreman, Phil Mickelson and Nolan Ryan come to mind — but he’s always the one with his hand raised at the final bell.
There comes a time when sluggers can’t get around on fastballs, quarterbacks lose the zip on their spirals and golfers can’t reach that par-5 in three, let alone two.
Pro golfers have the opportunity of joining the PGA Champions Tour at age 50. Recreational duffers can always move up to the gold tees.
NFL players don’t have that option. When Father Time catches them, the race is over.
It appears as if that time has come for Eagles running back/returner Darren Sproles.
And maybe tackle Jason Peters.
At 5-foot-6, Sproles has made a career out of proving size doesn’t matter. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 receiving touchdowns (30), 20 rushing TDs (22), one kickoff return for a TD (two) and one punt return for a TD (seven).
Unfortunately, those numbers aren’t going to change.
He planned to play against Dallas on Sunday night after missing seven games with a strained hamstring, but he re-injured it in practice Wednesday.
He probably has played his last game. Asking Sproles to evade defenders with that injury would be akin to a ballerina being en pointe with a sprained big toe, to Billy Joel trying to play “Piano Man” with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Sproles had contemplated retirement after missing most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and broken arm, but he wanted to be able to walk away under his own terms.
Instead, he’ll be limping away.
Peters is almost certainly headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, when he’s done playing. At his peak, the 6-foot-4, 328-pounder was the best left tackle in football, a freakish combination of size, power and agility.
But like Sproles, injuries have taken their toll. He also missed most of last season with a knee injury. Two weeks ago, he suffered a torn biceps tendon to go with the strained quadriceps that he’s been dealing with since early in the season.
“If I’m out there, I’m going to block you up,” Peters said. “And I’m going to win most of the time. (Getting beat) one or two times ain’t bad. I’m going to win most of the time.”
Considering the alternatives, namely Halapoulivaati Vaitai or raw rookie Jordan Mailata, that might be true. But Peters used to win all of the time.
The Eagles should be commended for their loyalty to the veterans, for giving Sproles and Peters one more chance to see if they can regain the talents that made them so special.
But as the Phillies painfully discovered a few years ago with Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, you also run the risk of keeping them one season too many.
Sproles and Peters should stay the rest of the season, but then the Eagles should upgrade those positions in the draft.
Use that first-round pick to take a stud offensive tackle to pair with Lane Johnson unless you think Mailata is the eventual answer. Pick a running back in the middle rounds.
They could even provide more local flavor to the backfield by selecting Temple University’s Ryquell Armstead (Millville) and/or Slippery Rock’s Wesley Hills (Wildwood) to go with Corey Clement (Glassboro) and Wendell Smallwood (Wilmington, Delaware).
Sproles likely will retire after the season. Peters has indicated he wants to keep playing, but he could be forced to find another team.
If they played another sport, they might be able to squeeze out another few seasons. But football is unforgiving. Very few players have specks of gray in their hair.
At 35 and 36, respectively, Sproles and Peters are senior citizens in football. Unlike in golf, there are no gold tees in the NFL.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.
Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com