Only one NFL player is a licensed physician, Kansas City Chiefs right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Maybe Alshon Jeffery thought the reporters gathered around him Friday afternoon in the NovaCare locker room had mistaken him for Duvernay-Tardif. Every time Jeffery was asked pretty much anything about his recovery from February shoulder surgery, the Eagles' most heralded wide receiver explained that "I'm not a doctor." Jeffery invoked this phrase at least four times.
Jeffery, who was in fact a sociology major at South Carolina, professed to have no idea when he will be cleared for contact. This is what Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday will have to happen for Jeffery to practice fully, then play in games. Pederson said Jeffery has looked good since joining individual drills this week for the first time since the Super Bowl, but "he's not cleared for anything physically yet from a contact standpoint. … He's doing some good things [in individual drills]. We'll evaluate him again next week."
The Eagles' offense definitely could have used Jeffery in the 18-12 season-opening victory over Atlanta, in which Nick Foles threw for only 117 yards. We'll see how it looks without Jeffery on Sunday, when the team visits Tampa Bay, a team that right now sports more top-shelf weapons than the Eagles can put on the field.
Jeffery's absence and the placing of Mack Hollins on injured reserve have made management reassess what the team has at wide receiver, as witnessed by reported tryouts over the past two weeks, and the shuffling of the practice-squad wideout group.
Running back/returner Darren Sproles, who can be a potent passing game ingredient, is out for this game with a hamstring injury, the Eagles announced Friday, and returner/receiver Shelton Gibson is questionable with a quadriceps injury. DeAndre Carter, Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood all have return experience.
"Just takin' my time, day by day. Each day I'm getting better," said Jeffery, 28, who caught 57 passes for 789 yards and nine touchdowns last season after tearing his right rotator cuff on the first day of training-camp practice. Jeffery rehabbed through the rest of the preseason and was able to play all year with the injury, soaring high in the end zone and bringing down Foles' first touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII.
"If I had to do it over again, I'd do the same thing," Jeffery said Friday. "It worked out, it's fine. I'll be OK."
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Jeffery said he is able to lift weights again now. He said the most frustrating time was right after the surgery when his arm was in a sling and all physical activity was curtailed for weeks. When interviewed in April, Jeffery thought he had a shot at being ready for the preseason and was confident he would be ready to start the season.
Asked about that on Friday, Jeffery said he keeps his focus ahead.
"It's always tomorrow, though," he said. "It's just improving every day, just always tomorrow. When I had surgery, it was frustrating, but when I was finally able to move around, I think it was just every day getting better. It's a process."
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The Eagles could have placed Jeffery on the physically unable to perform list before the season, and used his roster spot temporarily for someone else. That would have meant that Jeffery couldn't practice or play through at least the first six weeks. Clearly, they expected then that he would be back before Week 6.
Jeffery has stayed plugged into the wide receivers' room, tried to be a leader even if he isn't playing. He addressed the offense before the opener and told his teammates to start the season with Atlanta and end it in Atlanta – the site of Super Bowl LIII.
In Brent Celek's retirement message to the fans, Celek told of talking with Jeffery in the NovaCare cafeteria last offseason, Celek speculating about how amazing it would be in Philadelphia if the Eagles ever won the Super Bowl. Jeffery, who had just arrived as a free agent from Chicago, corrected him: WHEN the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
"I definitely knew we were going to be a special team," Jeffery said Friday. "Coming from Chicago and just seeing what I've been through and what I've seen, coming here, it was a fresh start. It was kind of refreshing just seeing our locker room, having the team chemistry and everyone was together and jelling, I knew it was going to be a special year."
And this year?
"Another Super Bowl, that's my expectation," said Jeffery, who has been working a lot with Carson Wentz while both are limited practice participants, just to keep that connection sharp. Speculation holds that Wentz could be cleared for contact in the next several days and play next week against the Colts.
"I think it's everyone's expectation to do it again," Jeffery said. "Why not?"
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