Mike Wallace is finally healthy and eager to contribute to the Eagles' playoff cause
Until fracturing his fibula in Week 2, Eagles wide receiver Mike Wallace had missed just two games in his career. He's hoping to finally return Sunday against the Redskins and help the Eagles make the playoffs.
Some players are magnets for injuries. Others manage to dodge them most of their careers.
Until he fractured the fibula in his right leg in the first quarter of the Eagles’ Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Eagles wide receiver Mike Wallace had been a very fortunate member of that second group.
He played nine years in the league and missed just two games – one with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012 with a hip strain, and another with the Baltimore Ravens last season with a concussion.
His only other significant injury in those nine years was a hamstring strain during training camp with the Miami Dolphins in 2014 that caused him to miss some summer practice time.
That was it. Until his fibula snapped against the Bucs.
“This is uncharted territory for me,’’ Wallace said Wednesday. “But I just take it with a grain of salt. It is what it is. There isn’t time to feel sorry for yourself or none of that.
“I was fortunate enough to make it 10 years without getting seriously hurt. That usually doesn’t happen in this game. I’ve been blessed.’’
Wallace, 32, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in March, was activated from injured reserve earlier this week after missing the last 13 games.
He’s hoping to play in Sunday’s do-or-die battle against the Redskins. The jury’s still out on that.
The Eagles only had a walk-through on Wednesday. Wallace will have a better idea of his readiness later in the week after the team’s more rigorous Thursday and Friday practices.
“I’m excited,’’ he said. “It’s been 12 to 13 weeks. It’s been a long road. I want to get out there and contribute and give something back for them taking a chance on me in free agency. I want to reward them and show them that I’m the player they thought I was.’’
The Eagles brought in Wallace to replace Torrey Smith as their vertical threat. He is one of just three active wide receivers with 500-plus receptions (538), 50-plus touchdown catches (57), and a per-catch average of 15 or more yards (15.0).
“Getting Wallace back, he gives them that speed down the field,’’ Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday. “It opens up some things for [tight end] Zach Ertz underneath.’’
Ertz has done pretty well without Wallace’s help this season. He broke Jason Witten’s single-season record for receptions by a tight end on Sunday and is second in the league in catches with 113.
“Ertz is already Ertz,’’ Gruden said. “He’s a great threat no matter who’s outside of him. He can run any kind of route. He can beat man. He can find holes in zones. But getting Michael back makes him even more dangerous, if that’s possible.’’
Wallace has been running routes for the last few weeks. But it’s been in the NovaCare bubble with the team’s trainers, not out on the practice field against the team’s defensive backs.
“Health-wise, I feel really good,’’ he said. “But I haven’t been in front of anybody who’s jammed me, or where I have to work against press [coverage], or things like that. But I feel I have a chance [to play]. A good chance.
“This is the next step. Coming back and getting on the practice field and getting in front of some of these DBs and getting releases off the line.’’
Wallace’s leg injury has cost him a lot of money. The one-year deal he signed with the Eagles was for just $1.9 million, but included another $2 million in easily reachable incentives.
At least they would’ve been easily reachable if he hadn’t gotten hurt.
But it’s been more about not being able to help the Eagles, who are his fifth NFL team, than missing out on a chance to fatten his bank account. He’s 32 years old. He knows his career clock is ticking.
“It’s been frustrating,’’ he said. “Because you have big expectations for yourself. Not being out there when things might not be going the way you had hoped for the team and you know you could’ve been helping and contributing, it’s frustrating.
“This is the first time I’ve ever gone through this. But I stayed prayed up. I kept my head up, and kept grinding. Controlling the things I could control. Attacking rehab every day. With a smile on my face.’’
The Eagles should be able to beat the Redskins on Sunday with or without Wallace. But getting him back certainly would be a plus if they manage to make the playoffs, which will take a Vikings loss to the Bears in addition to an Eagles win over the Redskins.
“When we get out there tomorrow [Thursday], we’re going to let him run around and see where he’s at,’’ coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s still going to be a day-to-day thing with him. We’ll make a decision later in the week and see how he is.’’
Wallace said the ultimate decision on whether he plays Sunday likely will be his.
“I would assume ultimately it would be me [deciding],’’ he said. “I’m the only one who is going to know exactly how I feel. If I don’t feel I can play, I’m not going to play. I’m not going to force myself.’’
The Eagles have used fewer three-wide receiver sets with Nick Foles at quarterback the last two games than they did with Carson Wentz.
They used 11 personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR) on just 42.5 percent of their plays in their wins over the Rams and Texans. In the previous 13 games, they used 11 on 54.8 percent of their plays.
It’s unclear what impact Wallace’s potential return might have on that. The Eagles have been regularly activating five wideouts – Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Golden Tate, Jordan Matthews, and Shelton Gibson.
But Gibson has been used strictly on special teams, while Tate has played just 34.9 percent of the offensive snaps the last two games, and Matthews 26.2.
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