All players aren't equal. And all players shouldn't be treated the same. But all players should have to earn favorable treatment or otherwise teams risk disrupting locker room equipoise.
In the case of Alshon Jeffery, who didn't formally participate in practice for a week — mostly out of fear of further injury — the Eagles also gambled away the opportunity for the wide receiver to work on his rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz.
Jeffery returned to practice Sunday, but he was held out of most drills. The Eagles initially said he had suffered a shoulder injury, but coach Doug Pederson said he also wanted to give his new receiver rest. A few days later, offensive coordinator Frank Reich indicated that the Eagles were being cautious.
By Friday, Pederson said Jeffery's injury was behind him.
"It feels good," the receiver said of his shoulder on Sunday.
Good enough to play in Thursday's preseason opener at Green Bay?
"I don't make those decisions," Jeffery said. "I just go out there and just do what they tell me and play football. But we'll see."
Sitting out one preseason game, and even a week of practice, isn't necessarily a big deal, especially for a veteran at a non-quarterback position. Jeffery attended most of the spring workouts, he was one of the receivers who traveled to Fargo, N.D., to throw with Wentz for a few days in July, and he has appeared to be the elite talent the Eagles thought they were getting when they signed the former Bear to a contract in March.
But Jeffery is still new to the Eagles, their offense and to Wentz. He has a history of injury, but also of missing training-camp practices in Chicago with nebulous lower body, soft-tissue strains. Does the risk of injury offset what could be gained by practicing? Perhaps.
If that was the case, though, wouldn't seemingly irreplaceable non-quarterback starters like left tackle Jason Peters or defensive tackle Fletcher Cox be just as worth bubble-wrapping? The longtime Eagles have little to prove to their teammates and coaches. And yet neither has missed a practice thus far.
Jordan Matthews may not be as instrumental to the offense's success this season, and he may have more on the line in terms of playing time and his future — although Jeffery also has only one year on his deal — but the receiver has yet to take a practice or snap off this camp even though his knee is clearly less than 100 percent healthy.
"I've always taken it if I was working at IBM, I'd be going to work," Matthews said. "If I was a schoolteacher, I'd go to work. Nobody would care. That's the same attitude I take to football. My parents woke up and went to work every single day and that's what I feel my responsibility is, not just to myself but to my teammates."
Jeffery may have wanted to practice through the initial shoulder injury. In fact, it appeared as if got hurt on July 29 only to return that day and practice the next. But after last Monday's off day, he was held out of Tuesday's session and spent the next four days mostly working out on a separate field with a trainer.
"Even though I didn't practice with the team, I was still going through the plays, doing stuff on my own, running on the side," Jeffery said. "I feel pretty good. I got all the reps, I just wasn't there with the team."
If the decision was out of his hands, was it made by the coaches or the front office? Pederson, the former player, has often talked about the bonds formed between teammates in battle. Thursday's practice was nearly three hours long, it was intense with "live" football, and it was held in stifling heat.
Afterward, the locker room was buzzing as players recounted the tackling periods. Running back Darren Sproles said he had no plans to take one of the rest days Pederson grants his over-30 players.
Brent Celek, who has missed only one game in 10 seasons, sat at his stall clearly exhausted and not afraid to tell other teammates. But when the 32-year-old tight end was asked why he hadn't yet taken a health day, he said, "No way. Why would I do that?"
Players know when other players are dogging it. When safety Malcolm Jenkins brought DeMarco Murray a chair as the former Eagles running back sat and watched practice with an ambiguous injury two Augusts ago, it spoke volumes.
Murray had few friends or fans in the Eagles locker room. Jeffery appears to be well-liked. His presence has been an early positive for Wentz, the offense, and the other receivers. A unit that was once a weakness is now seemingly a strength as the additions of Jeffery and Torrey Smith have had a ripple effect.
If Jeffery is to catch more than 85 passes for more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns — or whatever statistical bar satisfies — few will remember a week of missed practices.
But every opportunity is an opportunity to get better. Tight end Zach Ertz has said on numerous occasions that not having the same quarterback for a second straight season has affected his chemistry with his quarterbacks.
On Friday, Wentz said that he has had enough time working with Jeffery but added, "Obviously, I wish he would have been out there — but things happen."
Indeed, but has holding Jeffery back been necessary?