Sam Bradford's Eagles debut delayed; Zach Ertz has surgery
Chip Kelly wants QB to get more practice in. Meanwhile, TE Ertz has operation on what is thought to be a partial groin tear.
IN THE SHORT RUN, Eagles fans will be disappointed that they won't see their new No. 1 quarterback, Sam Bradford, in tomorrow's preseason opener against the Colts at Lincoln Financial Field.
In the long run, the bigger news coming out of NovaCare yesterday probably was that tight end Zach Ertz has undergone a surgical procedure on a "core muscle," believed to be a partial groin tear, and has been ruled out of the entire preseason.
With Bradford, it seems that Eagles coach Chip Kelly is just being cautious, wanting to get the QB with the twice-repaired left ACL another week of practice reps before sending him into live action. Bradford hadn't practiced 11-on-11 before camp opened two weeks ago tomorrow.
Kelly seems to think the practices starting Wednesday against the Ravens can be a sort of intermediate step, allowing Bradford to wade into the shallow end of the pool before he faces the Ravens in the second preseason game, a week from tonight at the Linc. Kelly said that Mark Sanchez will start, but appear only briefly tomorrow, and that most of the quarterbacking against Indianapolis will be done by Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow.
"I know he's disappointed, but it's my call," Kelly said. "There's a fine line" between the need to get a key player ready for the season and trying to keep him from getting hurt in a meaningless game.
Kelly mentioned Washington tight end Niles Paul, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in his team's preseason opener Thursday night, calling Paul "a tremendous football player, who's done for the year right now."
There is no hint that Bradford's knee is causing any concern. Bradford, who acknowledged he was disappointed not to get at least a few reps tomorrow, pointed out that he hasn't missed a single rep of training camp yet, let alone sat out a practice.
"Obviously, I wanted to be out there. I was preparing to be out there," Bradford said. "This morning [Kelly] kind of sat down and explained it to me. That's up to him. I'll be ready to roll next week, get out there to play against the Ravens."
Bradford said his main objection with not getting the handful of reps the starter will get tomorrow is that "you guys are probably going to keep asking about the knee" until he plays on it.
"With each day, I get more comfortable in the offense, I get more comfortable being out there, but, as far as a huge difference from this Sunday to next Saturday, I'm not sure how big that is," he said.
"I think there's still plenty of time in the preseason for me to get the work that I need to get done," he said. "This has nothing to do with the knee - I think this has been kinda his plan from the beginning."
The Rams did the same thing last year, when Bradford was coming off his first ACL tear. He sat out the preseason opener, then reinjured his knee in the second game. Bradford said the only difference was that, a year ago, he knew the plan going into camp.
With Ertz, even though Kelly said he thinks the third-year tight end will be back for the season opener Sept. 14 at Atlanta, it's fair to wonder about that timetable and about how long it will take Ertz to get back in the swing, after being cleared to practice and/or play.
Eagles center Jason Kelce was playing with a partial tear in that area when he ripped it completely in the third game last year. Kelce missed only four games, with the help of the bye week. He said yesterday he felt good the week he returned, but less solid the next few weeks. Kelce also said Ertz's tear was more minor than his.
Ertz's mentor, Brent Celek, played much of the 2011 season with a sports hernia and a bad hip, catching 62 passes for 811 yards and five touchdowns. Celek got the hernia and the torn labrum in his hip fixed after the season.
Ertz is a prime emerging weapon for a receiving corps that has shed DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin the past two offseasons. Ertz spent the offseason hard at work, especially on improving his blocking, which, in Kelly's run-based offense, has limited his playing time behind Celek. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said this week that Ertz is "a more efficient blocker" now.
Ertz has been a training camp standout, making several leaping, twisting catches. When he left Wednesday's practice, it seemed he had banged his right shoulder hard on the turf, for at least the third time in camp. Apparently, that wasn't the problem.
"It's something that we wanted to get cleaned up," Kelly said. "The [missing] reps weren't really important. In the long term, he's going to be a lot better for it. We just wanted to get it out of the way.
"Whatever it is, Dr. [William] Meyers said it's going to be a couple of weeks, he thinks he'll be fine for the opener . . . If we're going to have to shut him down, I'd rather shut him down now than have to shut him down in the middle of the season."
Meyers has become the James Andrews of abdominal surgery; he recently peformed a procedure on Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who is projected to miss four to six weeks.
During practice Tuesday, Ertz went down after colliding with linebacker Mychal Kendricks. He talked to trainers before returning to work.
"I don't want to miss a play when I'm out there," Ertz said afterward. "This is the time to get better."