With the Philadelphia Eagles officially ruling Jordan Howard out for the team’s Week 15 Washington matchup, the running back will miss his fifth game in a row. Howard hasn’t played since suffering a shoulder injury against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, November 3.
A firm time-table for Howard’s recovery has never emerged, through media reports or otherwise. But based on what Doug Pederson has previously said about Howard’s injury, well, it seems fair to wonder why he isn’t back by now.
Let’s revisit a timeline of quotes from the Eagles’ head coach. We’ll start with the first press conference in which Pederson was asked about Howard’s injury.
NOVEMBER 15, 2019
“So Jordan, he did sustain late in the game against the Bears, he did sustain what would be defined as a stinger. He’s been cleared to do some sort of individual work in practice, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact yet. Therefore, that’s where he is at.”
NOVEMBER 18, 2019
“He wasn’t cleared for contact but he was working individual drills. So we were optimistic that he was going to maybe be available for the game. That’s why [the Jay Ajayi signing] was later in the week than earlier.”
NOVEMBER 22, 2019
“Until he’s cleared for contact and until I get more updates from our medical team and the doctors, right now he’s still day-to-day and working through the individual portion of practice. [...] He can do individual stuff. It’s a tough injury. It’s a tricky injury. Again, until I get more updates and further notification on him, that’s where he is at. He’s progressing. He’s trending.”
NOVEMBER 27, 2019
“It’s day-to-day. It is going, it is progressing, it’s trending obviously in the right way. We just have to make sure that he gets his strength back before we can put him back out there.”
To recap, Pederson used the term “day-to-day” to describe an injury that’ll have kept Howard out of game action for at least 49 days. Pederson also said that the team was “optimistic that he was going to maybe be available” for the Week 11 New England Patriots game that occurred nearly one month ago on Sunday, November 17.
It’s understandable, then, why Eagles fans are frustrated about this situation. Howard’s return is clearly taking longer than previously suggested.
So, what’s the deal here? Is Howard’s injury more serious than the team originally let on? Did it just not progress like they expected it to?
Does Howard want to be extra conservative with his recovery since he’s going to be a free agent after this season? If so, he wouldn’t be the first Eagles player to take that approach.
Agholor […] was asked if his pending free agency would factor into his willingness to play through injury the rest of the season.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 14, 2019
“That’s a conversation that people can have. The most important thing right now is to try and get healthy.”https://t.co/TkxKply27d
Given that the Eagles are not very transparent about injuries — unlike they used to be when Rick Burkholder was the head trainer during the Andy Reid era — one can only speculate what’s going on with Howard. In that regard, friend of BGN Noah Becker asks some good questions:
The only game Howard had every previously not played in was the first game of his rookie season. He was averaging the fewest attempts per game of his career. He’s 25 years old. Seriously, what’s the deal here?— Noah Becker (@Noah_Becker) December 14, 2019
The Howard situation is hardly the first ordeal that’s caused fans to be frustrated with how the Eagles handle injuries. Jalen Mills, for example, was once described as “day-to-day” during the 2018 season before then having foot surgery that kept him out for 12 months. This season’s DeSean Jackson re-injury debacle opened the team up to more criticism.
The idea that a lack of transparency gives the team a significant competitive advantage is hard to buy considering they’re 16-15 in 31 games since February 4, 2018. Instead, the biggest thing it seems to accomplish is just making fans more angry.
Perhaps the Eagles should try being more honest ... and/or be looking to make medical staff changes for the third offseason in a row.