Sproles said recently that his wife would like him to retire. He said that his most recent concussion - he suffered another in 2007 - hasn't made him more inclined to call it a career. But the 33-year-old running back said last month, before the injury, that if there was anything that would have him hang up his cleats this offseason it was fatherhood.
"When your kids get to a certain age, you really want to be there for them all the time," Sproles said. "The reason why I wasn't here during the spring as much was my little girl was running track. So if I missed a track meet she feels bad about it. In the offseason, I really try to spend a lot of time with them."
The seasons, though, are difficult. There are 19 players on the Eagles who are fathers. While almost all of them said that becoming a father made them more motivated to play football and play it at a higher level, they also conceded that being a professional athlete and parent - especially for those living with their children - can be a struggle.
The Vikings' Terrence Newman, who at 38 is the oldest cornerback in the NFL by five years, recently acknowledged in a New York Times story that being single and childless has had some influence on his longevity. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who is married with a daughter, said that he, too, would try and last as long as Newman if single.
"For all the guys I know with kids that have transitioned out of the league, when it has been time to leave, all of them have looked forward to more time with their kids," Jenkins said. "I don't know if that was the determinate factor to walk away from the game, but it definitely makes walking away from the game a little easier."
"We didn't see [the hit that knocked Wentz out of the game], but we heard about it from the sideline, and we heard that it was pretty bad," said Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. "We were asking around in terms of how Carson was doing, and he was right back out there throwing [on the sideline]. Everyone was kind of taken aback by it."
Philadelphia receiver Jordan Matthews offered his take.
"He's a beast, bro," Matthews said. "He's backyard football at its finest. He's a great person to have as your quarterback, because nobody is thinking about that: Nobody said, 'He just went out with a possible concussion, let's not have him be a lead blocker on a reverse.' That's what he wants to do. And when you have a guy like that, then everybody wants to be around him."
"First play of the game, he just kind of picked up where he left off," Pederson said after the win. "He did a great job on that first play. He was out running. I thought his pass protection was good. Of course, we'll sit down and watch the tape tomorrow and evaluate it even further. But that was a great addition to get him back."
It was nice to see. It was also extremely frustrating.
See, the Eagles are now 4-1 in the five games Johnson has played this season — they could be 5-0 in those games if not for Ryan Mathews’ horrendous fourth quarter fumble against the Lions — and 2-8 in the 10 games he missed.
And you can't help but think how this season may have gone had Johnson never been suspended. I’m not about to suggest that one offensive lineman can be the difference between the Eagles being 6-9 and them potentially being 9-6, but it might not be as far off as you think.
If you’re willing to concede that when Johnson isn’t suspended he’s one of the best right tackles in the league, or at the very least a really good one, then you also have to be willing to concede that there's a drop-off in talent when he's not out there. No offense to Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Isaac Seumalo and Allen Barbre, who held their own, especially after their loss to Redskins in their first game without Johnson, but they're just not quite on the same level.