For the first time this year, Alshon Jeffery walked onto the Eagles practice field with a helmet in hand instead of his usual bucket cap.
The Eagles' wide receiver, who has missed the last nine-plus months with a foot injury that required surgery, was a limited participant in practice Thursday. Jeffery took part in individual drills, running routes and catching passes from Carson Wentz during the portion of practice that was open to the media.
Jeffery hurt his foot in December against the New York Giants and had surgery shortly thereafter. The Eagles decided to keep him on the 53-man roster instead of placing him on injured reserve or the PUP list because they believed Jeffery could return before Week 7. Whether he’ll be ready for Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals remains to be seen. But his return to practice indicates that he’s close to a return.
Jeffery’s standing was unclear during the offseason. He’s making a $9.91 million base salary this season and is in line to make $12.75 million next year, after signing an extension before the start of the 2019 season. The Eagles were open to trading the receiver this offseason, but they weren’t able to make a deal. Jeffery was linked to anonymous criticism of quarterback Carson Wentz to ESPN last year by an Eagles' sideline reporter.
The 30-year-old’s first practice followed Wednesday’s announcement that rookie receiver Jalen Reagor will miss significant time with a thumb injury. Reagor tore a ligament in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams and is expected to be placed on injured reserve while he recovers from surgery. Without Reagor, the team’s first-round pick in April’s draft, the team is thin at receiver. If Jeffery isn’t able to go, they’ll have DeSean Jackson, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and John Hightower.
Jeffery could help, depending on how well he can play when fully healthy. His injury put an end to the worst year of his career. He had 43 catches for 490 yards in 10 games, and his 11.4 yards per reception was the lowest in his eight-year career.
“You hate to see a guy like him go down,” Ward said. “Just knowing all the work that he’s been putting in this offseason, and to see him out there today, man, it was just overjoy for everybody. I’m just happy to see him out there, man. Happy to see him running around, catching balls with us.”