After Jordan Matthews' injury settlement release from New England on Aug. 8, Matthews talked with Carson Wentz about returning to the Eagles, in a sort of semi-serious way, Matthews indicated Wednesday.
A reunion just seemed a bit far-fetched, the sort of thing you wish would happen but never does.
But with Mike Wallace breaking his right fibula in Tampa, the Eagles had three healthy wideouts going into Sunday's visit from the Indianapolis Colts – Nelson Agholor, Kamar Aiken, and Shelton Gibson. Wallace was placed on injured reserve to get Matthews onto the roster Wednesday.
"You don't really possibly think it could happen," Matthews said after the first practice of his second Eagles stint. "Obviously, the circumstances that helped it to happen aren't great circumstances. We all feel for Mike; I think everybody's rooting for Alshon [Jeffery, still recovering from shoulder surgery] to get healthy and be able to come back, too."
Coach Doug Pederson acknowledged that finding someone who knew the offense and could play right away was a priority, and that most of Matthews' experience has been in the slot, which is not the receiving corps' biggest need. Agholor primarily plays in the slot, but he has been working outside more this season.
"I play wherever they need me to go," Agholor said Wednesday.
"[Signing Matthews is] part of where we are with the receivers and the injuries and things of that nature, but we'll work him this week and see where his role is going to be and try to get him in the mix," Pederson said.
The Eagles traded Matthews, their 2014 second-round draft choice, along with a 2018 third-round draft pick, to Buffalo in August 2017 for cornerback Ronald Darby. Matthews became a free agent after the season and signed with New England. But he suffered a Grade II hamstring pull early in training camp, and was released.
That was when the text-teasing with Wentz began, as Matthews' hamstring healed and Wentz worked his way back from knee surgery. The Pats cut Matthews just a few weeks after he'd served as a groomsman in Wentz's wedding. They are close friends.
"Obviously, with Jordan, I feel good with him," Wentz said Wednesday, as he addressed reporters for the first time this season as the starting QB. "He was gone only one season. He was here [in the 2017] training camp, even. He's picking up on things pretty quick already. We'll see as the week progresses how he looks and how he fits in and everything, but I feel comfortable with him, and, really, everybody else."
Matthews, too, noted that 13 months away wasn't a lifetime.
"It's not as weird as a lot of people probably think it would be. … I talk to [friends on the team] probably daily. It really didn't feel like I was gone that long," he said. "I'm just embracing each day, not really thinking about too much stuff ahead."
An awful lot has changed for Matthews, 26, over the last year-plus. He left here with 225 receptions in three seasons, for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. The conversation then was whether he was good enough to sign long-term for big money, when his rookie deal expired at the end of the 2017 season.
Injuries, including a knee problem Matthews said was misdiagnosed by the Eagles' medical staff, limited him to 10 games, 25 catches and 282 yards with the Bills, who did not re-sign him. Matthews' deal with the Patriots was for one year and $1 million. The Eagles will pay him $790,000 if he stays all season; because he was picked up after Week 1, his entire salary isn't guaranteed.
"It's hard. I don't really want to be into it too much … When this year is done and I have time to reflect, I can probably give you a way better answer, but it's definitely been a grind," Matthews said. He added that he felt the misdiagnosis was an honest mistake, and said he would have been fine coming back here even if the Eagles hadn't revamped their medical and training staff this past offseason.
"I have a great wife [Cheyna Williams]. She's been keeping me encouraged. We had our first child, he's, like, 3 weeks old now. That also gave me a ton of perspective," Matthews said. "There's people that go through way worse than [being] a free-agent football player."
Asked whether he feels he's here week-to-week, Matthews said: "It's play-to-play."
"I think I've definitely kind of been humbled as a result of this experience," he said. He said he thought people always saw him a grounded, humble player, but, as a second-round pick who started right away, "I didn't really understand the mindset of a guy like [Chris] Maragos, that's undrafted, the grind to get to where he's at … I can be that guy one day, I can be that guy one day."
Pederson denied that Wentz influenced the signing. But he also said it was a bonus that Wentz and Matthews have worked together so much and so well.