Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mac is back

If Jeremy Maclin isn't 100 percent right away, that's nothing compared to being found free of cancer. It has been an unnerving summer for the Eagles.

Mac is back

Jeremy Maclin was sidelined during training camp due to illness. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Jeremy Maclin was sidelined during training camp due to illness. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

There is a percentage of a chance that Jeremy Maclin will not be at his best this season, at least not right away.

There is another percentage  of a chance – 100 percent, actually – that it doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.

In a truly bizarre summer for the Eagles, it turns out they had two players coping with the possibility of life-altering, even life-threatening physical ailments. As public as Mike Patterson’s on-field seizure was, that’s how private Maclin’s brush with a cancer diagnosis was.

Patterson was diagnosed with an AVM, a condition in which blood vessels in the brain tangle and can cut off the oxygen supply. There appears a very good chance the defensive tackle will return to football.

More coverage
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Moving the Chains: Maclin's value to the Eagles' offense
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The Eagles say now that Maclin is fine and should be able to play by the season opener in St. Louis on Sept. 11. That is unabashedly good news. Not so much because he can run slant routes again, but because it means the doctors’ suspicion that he had lymphoma turned out to be unfounded.

The most important thing for both of these young men is their health and their quality of life. Football, which gives them the chance to make bags full of money and enhance that quality of life, is a bit lower on the priority list.

It would be great if Maclin can return without any impact on his performance. But the strain of months spent in the agony of uncertainty – Do I have cancer? – can not be good for anyone. And then there was the virus that apparently made Maclin feel unwell enough to seek diagnosis in the first place. Finally, there was the laproscopic removal of a lymph node last week, done to test for lymphoma.

Back in 1998, when he was going to be the Eagles’ No. 1 quarterback, Bobby Hoying had an appendectomy during the offseason. He then had an abscess in the area of the surgery. A lot of things went wrong for Hoying and the Eagles that year, but one of them was the impact of his offseason illness. Hoying never really regained his strength.

Maclin does not have to be the starting QB. He is one of many wide receivers, several of whom are really talented. There should be no pressure on Maclin to be at his best until he feels his best. If that takes a week or a month or all season, so be it.

Maclin had every right to ask for privacy while he was learning about his condition. But he should understand that the absence of information naturally led to speculation and discussion. He is an important player on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. He seemed to get that when he chose to grant his first interview on the subject to an NFL rightsholder, Fox Sports.

The speculation reflected anxiety about this team. Nothing can pop the balloon of high expectations quite like a bunch of injuries. And there’s something unsettling, especially if you’re prone to looking for omens, about two starters being sidelined with potentially grievous medical conditions.

So it is good news on every count that Maclin has been cleared of the worst possibility. And it is promising that Patterson is back with his teammates and talking about returning to the field.

Somehow, after this, hamstring pulls and high ankle sprains will be a relief.

Inquirer Columnist
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About this blog
Phil Sheridan has been covering pro and college sports in his hometown since 1985. He has been a columnist at the Inquirer since 2003, after a seven-year run as the paper's Eagles beat writer. Sheridan has covered eight Olympics, numerous Super Bowls and World Series, and has seen Guided By Voices and Wilco too many times to count. He lives, cooks and pursues the ultimate margarita blend in Langhorne. Reach Phil at

Phil Sheridan
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