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Chip Kelly's all-in with new acquisitions

Eagles coach Chip Kelly has healthy outlook on past injuries of recently added players, including quarterback Sam Bradford.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)Read more

CHIP KELLY insists he isn't the least bit bothered by the fact that his projected starting quarterback next season, Sam Bradford, who was acquired from the St. Louis Rams on Tuesday for Nick Foles and a draft-pick exchange that includes the Eagles' fourth-round pick this year and their second-round pick next year, has missed 25 of his last 32 games with a pair of torn ACLs.

Says he didn't have even a teeny-weeny bit of hesitancy about swapping running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, even though Alonso missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL.

Couldn't care less that free-agent running back Ryan Mathews, who signed a 3-year, $11.5 million deal with the Eagles yesterday, has managed to play a full season just once in 5 years, or that free-agent cornerback Walter Thurmond, who signed a 1-year, $3.25 million deal a day earlier, has missed 44 of 80 games in his career with a laundry list of injuries to his knees, ankles, pelvis, fibula, pectoral muscle and a few other bones, ligaments and tendons that I've probably missed.

"I'm not sure many guys who aren't ever injured ever become available," the Eagles coach said yesterday during a 30-minute impromptu news conference with reporters at the NovaCare Complex.

"You're talking about free agency. There's got to be a reason that a guy is let [go or not re-signed]. For some reason they can't come to a compromise. Whether it's a money issue or injury issue, it's got to be something. Otherwise, most people would want to keep them around."

Football is a violent game. Few players play it for any length of time without suffering at least one fairly significant injury. But Bradford, Thurmond, Alonso and Mathews have had a bigger share of injury misfortune than most. They've missed 109 of a possible 272 games in their NFL career.

And now they're all with the Eagles, where Kelly is hoping they can somehow stay healthy and help get his team into the Super Bowl hunt.

The Eagles wisely haven't made any long-term financial investments in any of them. Thurmond is on a 1-year deal. Mathews' deal only has $5 million in guarantees. Alonso is entering the third year of a 4-year second-round rookie deal that will pay him just $745,946 this season. Bradford will earn $12.9 million this year, but is in the final year of that 6year, $78 million rookie mega-deal he signed with the Rams in 2010. So, if he tears his ACL again, it might cost the Eagles a Super Bowl shot, but not any down-the-line money.

But this isn't about money. This is about them staying healthy and contributing and whether Kelly is crazy for gambling that they can, and whether owner Jeff Lurie is crazy for giving him the supreme power that has allowed him to do it.

While he certainly could be lying, Kelly insisted yesterday that he didn't acquire the 27-year-old Bradford to use him as a trade chip to move up in the draft and get Marcus Mariota. Said he brought him in to be the Eagles' starting quarterback for at least this season and hopefully beyond.

"We didn't bring Sam in to be a chip," he said. "I'm the only chip here."

To underscore that point, Kelly said that, earlier in the day, a team had called and offered him a first-round pick for Bradford. We only have his word for that, of course.

Talk to any NFL scout about Bradford and they'll rave about his ability the same way Kelly did yesterday.

"He's got an outstanding skill set," Kelly said. "He's a big, strong physical quarterback. He's intelligent. One of the most accurate throwers when you see him throw the football. And he's wired right."

But he can't stay healthy, and if he can't stay healthy, an outstanding skill set and intelligence and accuracy aren't one damn bit of good.

If you include his final season at the University of Oklahoma when a separated shoulder KO'd him after three games, Bradford has missed 41 of his last 93 games.

Tore his left ACL in the middle of the season in 2013, then tore it again the next August and sat out the entire 2014 season.

You would think two ACLs in 2 years would scare the hell out of Kelly and make him reluctant to roll the dice on Bradford. Especially given that he had to throw a second-round pick into the deal.

"If he had never torn his ACL, he never would've been traded [by the Rams]," said Kelly. "When you look at this league, Jason Kelce said it to me this morning, the injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent. It just matters what the severity [of the injury] is."

None of the injuries to Bradford, Thurmond, Alonso or Mathews are the kind that Kelly's sports science team could have helped prevent. Regular rest and smoothies and stretching before bed don't prevent ACL tears or broken fibulas.

"Jason himself has come off an ACL and a sports hernia surgery and made a Pro Bowl," Kelly pointed out. "[Jeremy] Maclin had an unbelievable year for us. Had 85 catches. And he was coming off two ACLs.

"Tom Brady has torn an ACL before. Drew Brees missed a season [with a shoulder injury]. Peyton Manning has missed a single. It's very rare in this league that you have a quarterback who hasn't been hit and hasn't been knocked out [of games]."

It was pointed out by one smart aleck writer with white hair and a beard that Maclin's ACL injuries occurred 4 years apart, while Bradford's occurred just 9 months apart.

"So the expert ruling on this is way far apart [is OK]?" Kelly asked. "We've done our due diligence in terms of talking to [Bradford's orthopedist] Dr. [James] Andrews and in terms of what we're getting. We feel very confident as far as where Sam is.

"It's all about your ability to come back. If you look at the Saints, their revival down there had a lot to do with what happened with Brees. A lot of people failed him on his medical [exam] before he signed with the Saints.

"But I think those other teams just didn't do enough due diligence in terms of counting Drew Brees out. Give [Saints coach] Sean Payton and [general manager] Mickey Loomis credit. They didn't count him out, and look how it paid off for them. That's some of the chances you have to take."

Say this for Kelly: He's not afraid to take them.

On Twitter: @Pdomo