Should the Eagles have known rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram was going to need a second repair of his left ACL?
This might not be as silly a question as it seems, in the wake of Ingram's re-tearing of his repaired knee, which cut short an impressive training-camp debut by an obviously gifted athlete.
NFL sources have told the Daily News that one reason the former Florida star fell to the Birds in the fifth round of the draft was that teams weren't happy with what they saw when they looked over Ingram's tests in the wake of the ACL repair he underwent in August 2008 that caused him to miss his senior season.
"Our doctors didn't like it. We took him off our board," one NFL personnel official said. "Our doctors said [Ingram] wouldn't be able to play until at least November, and that if he tried to play before that, he'd probably tear it again."
Ingram had the second surgery on his knee performed last Wednesday by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
His initial surgery was performed by Dr. Peter Indelicato, head team physician for the Florida Gators, at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida.
Asked about NFL teams' questions involving Ingram's injury, Indelicato issued a statement through a university spokesman: "We feel confident in the quality of medical care we provide the student-athletes at the University of Florida. We are not going to discuss the private medical records of Cornelius Ingram."
ACL repairs are pretty common in football. Normally, with the 2009 regular season starting 13 months after Ingram's initial injury, you'd figure teams might think he would be a pretty good gamble. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said the concerns of several teams he spoke to before the draft went beyond the normal uncertainty when a player is coming back from a significant injury.
"Several teams told me point-blank that the knee would tear again, and that it was just a matter of time . . . the issue was the initial repair [from] a year ago," Mayock said.
Mayock said he figured the Eagles knew this as well, but calculated that in the fifth round, an athlete as good as Ingram was worth the gamble - even if he tore the ACL again.
"It doesn't mean that he can't be a good player down the line after the [second] repair," Mayock said. "Knowing all the risks, I still thought the Eagles made a good decision taking him in the fifth round . . . A fifth-round pick was worth the price, for a first-round talent, and they would deal with the knee if and when they had to."
That indeed sounds like a reasonable calculation, except that Eagles general manager Tom Heckert told the Daily News last week that the team had no problems with the state of Ingram's ACL going into the draft, "other than the fact he hadn't played on it." He said the Eagles did not draft Ingram thinking he might need more work. Heckert said he couldn't answer for what other teams might have thought.
Attempts to reach Ingram through agent Drew Rosenhaus were unsuccessful. A message for Andrews drew no response.
From a fan's perspective, in the long run, this development might be a good thing. When Ingram tore his ACL again, you had to wonder if he didn't just have chronically bad tendons, or a structurally unsound knee. Now, it seems that might not be the case.
You can, however, second-guess the Eagles, who went into free agency and the draft with an immediate need at tight end, having let L.J. Smith leave in free agency. They could have traded a second-round pick in 2010 for Tony Gonzalez, as Atlanta did, or they could have drafted any of a number of healthy tight ends before the fifth round.
Even if Brent Celek has the breakthrough year the team is anticipating, the Eagles often use two-tight-end sets, as Donovan McNabb noted this week. Ingram, 6-4, 245, swift and surehanded, looked like an ideal complement to Celek.
Now, a team that began training camp with Super Bowl aspirations clearly seems concerned about the tight end spot. Undrafted rookie Rob Myers was signed, and don't be surprised if there's more Eagles tight-end activity when rosters get trimmed.
For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.