The NFL had a plague of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears hit the league in the 2013 offseason. While he was not among the prominent names in the game to go down, Eagles wide receiver Arrelious Benn was one of the most promising players to suffer the serious knee injury. Six months removed from surgery, Benn is looking to prove that he can still be an impact player in the league.
A former second round pick out of Illinois and a one-time starter in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, Benn is a talented guy, who just seems to be battling his body for a roster spot. The 39th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft (taken behind only Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas at his position) was traded for by the Eagles and signed to an immediate one-year extension in March of last year. Despite his injury, the team is still very intrigued by his rare blend of speed, strength and overall athleticism.
Benn spent the entire 2013 season in Philadelphia getting to know his coaches and teammates, while taking a very positive approach to his recovery from the second ACL injury of his career. With his rehab on schedule and his mind clear, Benn is set to return to the field at some point this offseason and battle for a spot on the 53-man roster. If he can prove that he is healthy, he should be a lock to see playing time on Sundays.
Bleeding Green Nation has the pleasure of joining Benn on his journey back from his second major knee injury. BGN will be with Benn throughout the offseason and he will provide insight on his rehab, the business season and training camp. The On the Mend series will give fans unprecedented access to the thoughts of a player that is attempting to not only make the Eagles roster but also see major playing time. This is going to be a long offseason and Benn has agreed to take us through it with him.
Below is our first Q&A session with Benn and stay tuned for weekly updates, as we pick the brain of one of your Philadelphia Eagles:
Mike Kaye: Where in the rehab process are at right now? Are you going to be ready to practice in OTAs?
Arrelious Benn: The process is going pretty good. I am in the stage of running straight ahead, doing a little bit of cutting and doing things on the ladder and stuff like that. I am not running routes just yet. I am taking my time with that. I am hoping to be ready for OTAs, I am six months out of surgery and things look to be fine as far as the rehab and getting back to [full] health, so that I can go back there and perform.
When I got to Philly, I didn't worry about taking anyone's job, I was just excited to be part of a winning organization. I wanted to show people what I could do in the league and show what I know I can do. -Arrelious Benn on being traded
MK: Were you with the Eagles at their facility receiving treatment after the injury? Did you want to stick close to the team and be in meeting rooms during your rehab?
AB: "Yeah. I was allowed to be here with the team. Being with a new coach and new guys around, I wanted to be with the team and be in the meeting rooms and keep getting acclimated with things and the offense. I wanted to stick to knowing the team. That was a big thing for be me because they had asked me if I had wanted to go out on my own. I am the type of guy that likes to keep being motivated and get ready for next year."
MK: What was it like to get traded to Philadelphia, be in an environment where both fans and the team were pretty excited about you from your past work and you were a being speculated to possibly be a starter to then tearing your ACL for the second time in four years?
AB: "When I got traded from Tampa to Philly, I was really excited to be here with a team that wanted me. For the fans to feel that way about me it [was] a tremendous feeling. I didn't feel like I got the opportunity that I should have [in Tampa Bay] and it didn't work out well. I felt like I put forth the effort, but I battled through a lot of injuries. When I got to Philly, I didn't worry about taking anyone's job, I was just excited to be part of a winning organization. I wanted to show people what I could do in the league and show what I know I can do.
It kind of sucked [the ACL injury]. But the best thing about it is that you just have to keep on trying. I've been down so much, there is nowhere to go but up. It's great to have the fans and the team [think positively] about me after I have battled injuries. I am doing everything possible, sacrificing everything in rehab to go out and perform and win games."
MK: Chip Kelly has the Sports Science and the Eagles remained fairly healthy during the regular season but did have the four ACL injuries including in training camp in a relatively close period of time. It was almost as if you guys were cursed (Benn chuckles). You went down, Jeremy Maclin went down, Jason Phillips went down and then Phillip Hunt. Of the wide receivers, Riley Cooper had to step up in your's and Maclin's absence. Cooper may not have been the starter, had you been healthy. Can you talk about what you've noticed about Sports Science and how it has helped the other guys?
AB: "It helped the guys a lot. I mean everything with Chip Kelly falls in line with is getting an advantage and getting an edge [on the opponent]. [Sports Science] gives you the thought process of 'Hey let me know what I am putting into my body and let me know that its good, so that I can go out and perform and be healthy.'
I think that when all four guys went down with the ACLs it was a weird thing. I don't think it had anything to do with what we were doing, it's just that it happens. I think it happened to guys that can definitely comeback from this injury and be good players. The good thing about it is we went through the process of the offseason with the Sports Science and now coming back from the injury and rehab, we will definitely know [what its about]."
MK: You and Jeremy tore ACLs for the second time each during a very close period of time. Were able to rehab and go through the process together? Were you kind of able to lean on each other or was it a bit isolated, like one guy was able to recover faster? You have both torn your ACL twice, so there is an interesting parallel there.
AB: "Every guy is different. Every guy is different with rehab, but we were able to motivate each other, through one another, through our time in rehab. That's just the competitive nature of both guys and Jeremy Maclin is a great competitor. He's a guy that wants to get better and perform next year and we uplift each other and we help each other out."
MK: I don't know if it's the opportunity or the curse to work with three head coaches during your career (Benn laughs). You worked with Raheem Morris, who was mostly a defensive coordinator in college with Kansas State but had some experience in the NFL, then you had Greg Schiano come from Rutgers, and then obviously you now have Chip Kelly that came from Oregon. You have a lot of experience with college coaches that came to the pros, so can you talk about how that has impacted your career? Do you think that has been a hindrance to your game, at least in Tampa, where the coaches didn't seem to do a good job with professional players?
AB: "Raheem Morris was a great, tremendous guy and a great player's coach and with Chip Kelly I sort of see the same type of personality. You know everyone has their own philosophy but those two guys I have the utmost respect for. You know sometimes [firings or coaching changes] happen and that's just the nature of the game. You got to roll with it and people may not know everything from the inside and they only see what's on the outside.
Most of the time you have to accept that because it comes with the territory of being a pro athlete, so if you're not performing the way you want or the way someone wants you to be, it's your fault. I don't get angry or bitter about it, I just go out there and keep getting ready about it and work hard everyday. I mean that's what it is all about, proving the naysayers wrong each and every day."
I had never had a major injury until my ACL surgeries back-to-back and having bounced back from that, it helped me mentally to be strong. -Benn on his approach this offseason
MK: You've pretty much played every role that an NFL wide receiver can play in this league. Does that help you moving forward if the Eagles decide to draft a Mike Evans or a Kelvin Benjamin in the first round and make them the starter? How do you go into a situation like that? You obviously played special teams in Tampa Bay with Greg Schiano. Do you think that helps you?
AB: "I think my ability to have back-to-back injuries helped me keep things into perspective. I look at this whole game in a different way. I had never had a major injury until my ACL surgeries back-to-back and having bounced back from that, it helped me mentally to be strong. So if it comes to a situation [where I am a depth receiver], I don't care where you put me to start, I just know how I finish.
I don't worry about the depth chart, this, that and the other. It's a situation where I am at this position and I just want you to see me work. I am not worried [about where guys are going to project in the lineup] because you never know when somebody is going to go down. People weren't talking about Riley Cooper as a starter and having the season that he had. That goes to show you that you never know how things are going to shake out in this league and you just have to stay positive and do your work and other things will take care of themselves."
MK: I spoke with Hank Baskett a few weeks ago and he mentioned that the great thing about Nick Foles is that he came in hungry as any backup or player in the league should be. With that said, you are coming in as a bit of a dark horse this offseason coming off an ACL injury, so what is your mindset coming into OTAs and training camp?
AB: "I need to show what I have always done and show what I can do in OTAs and minicamps and training camp. I am not going to sit here and say 'I can do this and I can do that,' but I am going to go out there and do me. I am just going to try to do the things that I can do when I am healthy and when I am 100-percent healthy, you can't stop me. The only thing is for me is staying healthy. I am not worried about running a route or catching a ball or whatever, that is going to come. The big thing for me is just staying healthy."
You can follow Benn on Twitter at @ArreliousBenn. You can follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @mike_e_kaye.
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