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Darren Sproles ruled out for season, as another Eagles gamble on an older player doesn’t pay off

The 36-year-old running back's season is over, and probably his NFL career, too, after he tore his hip-flexor muscle in practice this week.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles carrying the football against Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith two weeks ago. Sproles is out for the year with a torn hip-flexor muscle.
Eagles running back Darren Sproles carrying the football against Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith two weeks ago. Sproles is out for the year with a torn hip-flexor muscle.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

As the Eagles are discovering, the problem with signing old guys is they tend to get hurt more often than younger players.

The Eagles brought back 32-year-old wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason. He was supposed to give them a much-needed vertical threat. And he did.

For one game.

He caught eight passes for 154 yards, including touchdowns of 51 and 53 yards, in the Eagles’ Week 1 win over Washington, then suffered a core muscle injury in the first quarter of the next game against Atlanta.

He passed on surgery, rehabbed the injury, missed six games, returned Nov. 3 against Chicago, played four snaps and caught one pass for 5 yards, and got hurt again, and is out for the rest of the regular season.

Thirty-seven-year-old left tackle Jason Peters has missed the last three games with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.

And now, 36-year-old running back Darren Sproles is done for the season. In a statement Friday, the Eagles announced that Sproles is sidelined with a torn hip-flexor muscle.

Sproles had missed three games with what was listed by the Eagles at the time as a quad injury, before returning for the Bears game before the bye.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Friday that the hip-flexor tear is the same injury that had sidelined him earlier. He said the two muscles are “connected.’’

Sproles had just two carries for 7 yards and one catch for 3 yards, and handled two punts against the Bears.

Boston Scott, who handled punt returns when Sproles was out, will again be the team’s primary punt returner.

In addition to losing Sproles, the Eagles also might be without their leading rusher, Jordan Howard, Sunday against New England. Howard suffered a stinger in the Bears game and been a limited practice participant this week. The Eagles brought back Jay Ajayi as a free agent after a workout Friday.

Sproles almost certainly has played his last game for the Eagles. He has missed 26 games the last three seasons with injuries. The Eagles re-signed him just before the start of training camp.

"Man, what a ride,'' Sproles wrote on Instagram earlier Friday. "I put my all in this game since the age of 8. I played every snap like it was my last. If I never put that #43 on again I have no regrets. I gave it my all and I hope I made my family proud!''

Said Pederson: “I’ve learned this over my playing career and coaching in this league that this is part of the game. It’s disappointing in Darren’s situation because of who he is as a person and what he’s meant to this organization and to this team. I’m disappointed for him.''

Asked whether the Eagles brought Sproles back too soon, Pederson said that, like Jackson, he went through a “rigorous protocol’’ before returning to the field.

“Both of these players, you have to consider where they are in their careers,’’ he said. “This is why guys like even [linebacker Nigel Bradham, ankle] aren’t back practicing yet. Or [cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, foot]. We’re putting them through these rigorous tests so that when they do get back on the field, they’re ready to go.

“It’s just unfortunate. [Sproles] came in Monday. He worked Monday. He did some conditioning on his day off on Tuesday. He just felt it after practice on Wednesday, and we had it checked out.’’

Pederson said he has no regrets about the team bringing back any of the three older players.

“I would do it again,’’ he said. “With all three of those guys, I would do it again. These are great players. These are great leaders. These are great teammates. They’ve been a part of this organization for a long time. So I would make the same decision again.

“You can’t go into it blind, obviously. We know where they are in their careers. That’s something you have to consider.’’