Eagles safety Rodney McLeod says he is “right on pace to come back for the start of the season” after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in 2018′s third game.
McLeod, who will turn 29 on June 23, three weeks before his July 13 wedding, said Thursday he won’t be ready for next month’s organized team activities but hopes to be available for training camp in mid-July.
“I’m counting down the days until this is over and I’m back on the field with my teammates,” he said.
Before last season, McLeod missed only two games in six years. “I never understood the process that [knee-injury rehab] took and how much time you have to devote to your body,” he said.
Players with more knee injury experience, such as Carson Wentz, Chris Maragos, and Jason Peters, have guided him, McLeod said. “I’ve leaned on those guys a lot for inspiration.”
McLeod spoke Thursday about activism in underserved communities at the Student National Medical Association’s annual conference, at the Center City Marriott. Last year, McLeod partnered with CF Charities to provide eye and dental exams and care to 2,500 children in the Camden area, an effort he hopes to expand, he said.
McLeod’s injury was one of the main reasons the Eagles, coming off their first Super Bowl victory, struggled to a 9-7 record and squeaked into the playoffs. By playoff time, though, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was able to concoct combinations that worked effectively, helped by the quick development of rookie corner-safety Avonte Maddox.
McLeod was scheduled to make $7.5 million this season on a contract that stretched through 2020. Early this offseason, he accepted a restructuring that will pay him $3 million, which can become $4 million if he plays all 16 regular-season games. He now will become a free agent next offseason.
The Eagles signed former Vikings starting safety Andrew Sendejo to a one-year, $1.3-million contract in free agency. Sendejo could emerge as a contender for the starting job if McLeod doesn’t return at his pre-injury level.
“It’s going to be good, healthy competition for us in the back end in a lot of places," McLeod said. "… I think bringing a guy of his caliber, with a lot of experience in this league as a starter, is going to be helpful for us.”
He said he has met Sendejo, and “I’m excited.”
With McLeod and Sendejo signed only for this year and Malcolm Jenkins turning 32 during the season, there has been considerable speculation that the Eagles will draft a safety with one of their three picks in the first two rounds – they haven’t taken one higher than the fifth round since second-rounder Jaiquawn Jarrett in 2011.
McLeod said he has heard such speculation and is a fan of fellow Virginia alum Juan Thornhill, a safety who could be a second-round Eagles target.
“He started off at cornerback, so he has that experience to cover," McLeod said. “Also played nickel and then finished off at safety. He’s a good player. I’m interested to see where he goes.”