JORDAN MATTHEWS has spent most of his athletic life as the picture of health. Other players got hurt, not him. Not ever.
Not in little league. Not in Pop Warner. Not in middle school or high school. Not at Vanderbilt. Not in his first two years in the NFL.
This season, though, has been one big pain for the Eagles slot receiver. It started in training camp when he hurt his left knee after getting hit by rookie cornerback Jalen Mills during a live practice period, and things have snowballed from there.
"It's been one of those years," said Matthews, whose latest malady, a sprained ankle, forced him to miss Sunday's ugly 32-14 loss to the Bengals.
"I had the one (knee) injury. I tried to come back from that one. Then another (injury) came up. Literally, the (Week 10) Atlanta game was probably the best I felt. Then, the next week, I came in (to the facility) just to squat (lift), and I kind of (hurt) my back.
"The back finally healed up and I felt good going into the Monday night game against the Packers. Then (I hurt) the ankle. It's been kind of a recurring theme. It's frustrating. But I'm still blessed and still extremely (eager) to get back out there and play with my guys."
Watching Matthews hobble to his locker Friday, it's clear his injured ankle is a long way from being healed. But there's healed and then there's football healed. He'll be out there Sunday at the Linc playing against the Redskins.
"It's still a process, as far as rehab and stuff," he said. "I'm doing some stuff with the chiropractor. I'm also doing some acupuncture. It's that time of the season where you just have to gut through some things.
"I think one (missed) game is enough for me. I'm going to try and get out there Sunday."
Aside from the four preseason games he missed this summer while recovering from his knee injury, Matthews had never missed a game at any level.
"It definitely wasn't fun," he said of not being able to play last week. "It's so hard to watch. You don't sign up for this just to watch games. I always played my whole career, strictly because I love the game and for the respect of my opponents, and for nothing else. You can't really do that on the sidelines.
"But I try not to dwell on it. There are people going through way worse things in America than me missing a football game.
"I try to look at the positives. I like what P.T (rookie wide receiver Paul Turner) was able to go out there and do. I was happy for him."
Turner played 41 snaps in only his second NFL game adn caught six passes for 80 yards.
"And I was really proud of (backup tight end) Trey (Burton)," Matthews continued "His role got expanded with me being out. He got to show what he could really do (five catches, 53 yards in a season-high 53 snaps).
"So there's always positives. We might not be seeing them now in a loss. But some of those guys are going to be weapons for us in the future. We saw they can go out there and perform well without me being in there."
Matthews injured his ankle in the second quarter of the Eagles' 27-13 loss to the Packers two weeks ago. For what it's worth, it came on one of the most impressive passes rookie Carson Wentz has thrown to him all season - a beautiful 20-yard back-shoulder fade. Unfortunately, Matthews didn't stick the landing quite right and turned the ankle.
"I was kidding with Carson," Matthews said. "I said, 'Bro, the reason I got hurt was because our back-shoulder (throw) is better than Jordy's (Nelson) and Aaron's (Rodgers).' I didn't mesh right with the universe. It wasn't supposed to happen that way on Monday night for everybody to see. So the football gods took my ankle."
Matthews wanted you and me, but especially Nelson and Rodgers, to know he was joking. LOL!
"It did kind of suck to go out on that play, because I was feeling good," he said. "I thought that was going to be a game, where we could really exploit that team, especially in the passing game. But everything didn't work out as planned. I just have to try and go out there this week and have a productive game."
Matthews is having a decent season. He has a team-high 57 catches. But with four games left, he probably won't match any of his numbers from last season, when he finished with 85 receptions for 997 yards and eight touchdowns.
But that's the least of his concerns right now.
"We have a good core group of guys here that can win games and lead this team moving forward," Matthews said. "I think we have a lot of pieces in place moving forward. Not just in the future, but finishing this season out the way we're supposed to."
That remains to be seen. One of the Eagles' top offseason priorities will be upgrading the rest of the wide receiving corps, so Wentz has more pass-catching weapons at his disposal.
After a terrific start, Wentz's numbers have fallen off the last two months. In his last eight games, he has a 70.1 passer rating, the lowest in the NFL during that span. But neither Matthews nor the organization has lost any faith in the rookie.
"Anytime you have a (great) quarterback, you can win games," Matthews said. "Carson has shown he can be a great quarterback in this league.
"He's the guy. He looks like the guy. He walks like the guy and talks like the guy. And he goes out there and plays like it.
"We just need to continue to rally around him and coach (Doug) Pederson, be positive, and continue to go out there and produce."
Jordan Matthews, running back Ryan Mathews (knee) and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (oblique contusion) were listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. But Matthews and Mathews both are expected to play Sunday against the Redskins. They were full practice participants Friday. Green-Beckham did not practice Friday and probably won't play . . . The Eagles are 26th in the league in third-down offense. They've converted only 35.8 percent of their third-down opportunities. In their 27-20 Week 6 loss to the Redskins, they converted only four 12 third-down chances. Eight of those 12 third-downs were nine yards or more. "We were in third-and-long a lot in that first game," tight end Zach Ertz said. "In this league, it's difficult to be successful when you're always in third-and-long. When you're in third-and-long, you're going to be in a lot of chip-protection. I'm not going to be able to run a lot of routes. Darren (Sproles) is not going to be able to run a lot of routes. We're going to be chipping often to let the other routes develop down the field. In order to maximize our efficiency on third down, we have to stay in that third-and-4-to-6 range, or even less."