The Eagles are shaking up their medical staff for the third straight offseason and aren’t bringing back two staff members from their sports science team, NFL sources told The Inquirer.
Shaun Huls, director of high performance, and Shireen Mansoori, director of rehabilitation, will not return, the sources said. Their contracts were allowed to expire. The Eagles had no comment Tuesday.
Huls had been with the Eagles since 2013, when former coach Chip Kelly first brought a sports science program to the team. Mansoori was hired not even two years ago as the medical staff underwent a seismic shift.
The Eagles, after their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history two years ago, severed ties with their top two doctors, head physician Peter DeLuca and team internist Gary Dorshimer, and their head trainer, Chris Peduzzi. The three had approximately a combined 60 years of experience with the Eagles.
After their departures, the Eagles went from being one of the healthiest teams in the NFL to one of the most injured. From 2013-17, they ranked first, fifth, sixth, fourth, and 11th in the league in fewest games lost to injury, according to Football Outsiders. In 2018, they finished last, and while the numbers for 2019 have yet to be calculated, the Eagles are expected to finish near the bottom again.
“When we look at the last three years, in 2017, we were able to overcome [injuries],” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said last month. “The last two years, the injuries have really hurt our football team. There is a part of that that is natural during the game. Injuries are going to happen. But we have to figure out a way to get better here.
“We can help from a front office perspective by looking at the players that we bring in. Hope is not a strategy when it comes to injuries. When you bring in guys that are injured, it obviously increases the risk that they will get hurt again.”
The Eagles have had one of the older rosters in the NFL over the last several years. Last offseason, they either acquired or retained three players older than 32 — tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles and wide receiver DeSean Jackson — and combined they went on to miss 26 regular-season games to injury.
The team also brought back free agents who had previously missed significant time with the Eagles because of injury, and in a couple of cases — cornerback Ronald Darby (seven games) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (six games) — those players missed multiple games because of injury.
While age and history likely played some role, the medical staff turnover and lack of experience in the replacements have factored as much -- if not more -- in the Eagles’ injury woes, team and league sources close to the situation have said.
The Eagles replaced DeLuca and Dorshimer, in essence, with Stephen Stache and Christopher Dodson. While Dodson had some experience with the Eagles, Stache did not. He spent less than one year with the team, and the Eagles brought in Arsh Dhanota as their chief medical officer during the 2019 offseason.
“This is someone that we are very, very excited to have,” Roseman, who oversees the Eagles’ medical staff, said last month. “He came in in June and what he asked for us was that he would observe, observe through the season, observe our training staff, observe our weight staff, our sports science, our processes, and make recommendations to us that we would carry out.”
Dhanota had spent time working with the 76ers and Flyers, but like others on the Eagles’ rebuilt staff, he had little to no experience working in the NFL. Mansoori had previously worked in the WNBA. Jerome Reid had four years with the Tennessee Titans before the Eagles hired him to replace Peduzzi, but he had never been a head trainer in the NFL.
The Eagles, like most teams, have had unfortunate season-ending injuries such as torn ACLs or ruptured Achilles. In most of those cases, there are few preventative measures that can be taken. But with soft-tissue injuries, there are, and the Eagles’ recent history in number and treatment has been dubious.
They had several players with recurring muscle strains, such as cornerback Sidney Jones and Sproles, over the last two years. Jones (Achilles) and Sproles (ACL), it should be noted, had suffered significant injuries in 2017.
The Eagles use a European model, favored by many NBA teams, for their sports science program. GPS tracking factors significantly into their treatment of soft-tissue injuries.
But the Eagles’ handling of other injuries and recoveries has come under question, as well. During their 2018 training camp, quarterback Carson Wentz was cleared to participate in team drills as he recovered from knee surgery. But after a teammate ran into him, the Eagles pulled back on his participation for more than a month.
Two months later, he suffered a stress fracture in his back that wasn’t diagnosed for weeks. Running back Jay Ajayi tore an ACL during a game in September 2018, but the injury wasn’t diagnosed on the field and he was outfitted with a knee brace and returned to the game.
Cornerback Jalen Mills suffered a foot injury in October 2018 that coach Doug Pederson said would sideline him for only a few games. But several weeks into the injury, Mills was spotted wearing a boot. A few weeks later, he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. He didn’t have surgery, however, until January, and didn’t play again until this past October.
The Eagles are typically evasive when discussing player injuries, but this past season they released detailed information when Sproles, Jackson, and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill were placed on injured reserve. Sproles was shut down because of a hip flexor injury; Jackson because of surgery to correct a core muscle injury he had put off for two months; and Grugier-Hill because of a “lower lumbar disc herniation.”
Sources said further changes to the Eagles’ medical staff could be coming.