You probably have seen Jason Peters on the field for the last time as an Eagle, ending the longest era of dominance on the offensive line for any player in franchise history.
Coach Doug Pederson announced Friday that Peters, 38, would miss the rest of the season because of a turf-toe injury. He reportedly has a broken and dislocated big toe.
“He has elected to have surgery on his foot, on his toe,” Pederson said. “Let me tell you something — it’s an injury that we’ve known about and he’s battled through it. He’s done everything he can for this football team. … He means a lot to me personally, not only on the field but off the field as well.
“He wanted to be out there with his teammates, obviously, for the remainder of the season. It’s just to the point now where the injury is a little bit too bad for him to continue.”
Nate Herbig, who came in for Peters in the second half of last Sunday’s game against the Packers, will start in place of Peters at right guard this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Peters entered the NFL in 2004 as an undrafted rookie tight end in Buffalo. The next season he transitioned to tackle, eventually making the Pro Bowl nine times, and being selected All-Pro six times. Seven of the Pro Bowl berths and four of the All-Pro designations came after he was sent to the Eagles in a 2009 trade for first-, fourth-, and sixth-round draft picks. That transaction, triggered by Peters’ contract dispute with the Bills, will go down as one of the best trades in Eagles history.
Currently, Peters is not a fan favorite; he has battled injuries pretty much constantly since the 2017 Super Bowl season, in which he played only seven games, his season ending in October with a torn ACL. He often has played through injuries. Last offseason, the Eagles let him venture into free agency, thinking 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard would take over at left tackle. Peters returned to the roster when All-Pro right guard Brandon Brooks suffered an Achilles tear in June, with the thought that Peters would transition to right guard. Then Dillard’s season ended before it began, with a torn biceps tendon.
The logical move was to move Peters to his old position, but Peters asked for a raise that would pay him as a starting left tackle if he was to move there. A fan base already weary of being disappointed by older, injury-prone players was not receptive. His contract was adjusted, but he sustained a painful turf toe injury early in the season, and missed four games. Peters played well at first upon his return, allowing just three pressures and no sacks in his first two games back.
He reinjured the toe in the midst of a forgettable November afternoon in Cleveland, when he allowed three sacks, including one for a safety, against a Browns defensive line missing Myles Garrett, one of the best edge rushers in the league.
The coaching staff then moved Peters to right guard — for good this time — and brought back Jordan Mailata at left tackle, where he’d played when Peters was injured. Peters, still hobbled, labored through the Seattle game and then left last Sunday’s loss at Green Bay in the third quarter. That was Peters’ 213th NFL game, his 148th as an Eagle.
Peters has often served as a mentor for the Eagles’ younger offensive linemen, even dating back before the team drafted right tackle Lane Johnson in the 2013 NFL draft.
Herbig said he learned the most from the example Peters set.
“For me, it’s just every little thing he does,” Herbig said. “Like how he takes care of his body, how he approaches the game, his film study, what he eats, how he works out, just everything, because at the end of the day he’s a Hall of Famer. And, I mean, I hope to have half the career that he’s had up to this point.”
A declining team facing a salary-cap crunch is extremely unlikely to bring Peters back yet again in 2021, if he still wants to try to play.
The offensive line that takes the field this Sunday against New Orleans will feature Mailata at left tackle and rookie Jack Driscoll at right tackle, in place of Johnson, who recently underwent season-ending ankle surgery. It will be the 12th combination of O-line starters in 13 games.
Herbig started the first eight games and played well but suffered a hand injury last month and was benched even after his hand healed.
“The team did what they felt best for us to win,” Herbig said. “I was banged up and other guys got some opportunities and they play really well and, now guys are banged up and I’m coming back and I have an opportunity, so I hope I can just help the team win.”