JORDAN MATTHEWS' left knee has been a nagging issue ever since then-rookie cornerback Jalen Mills slammed his helmet into it on a tackle early in 2016's training camp.
Matthews missed the entire preseason with what a source close to the situation called a bone bruise, but went on to catch 73 passes for 804 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. This spring, Matthews sat out a lot of spring work, including this week's minicamp, with tendinitis in the knee.
Matthews said Thursday that he expects to be fine for training camp, and will venture to North Dakota in a few weeks when Carson Wentz gathers his receivers to run routes and rob the Pony Express, or whatever one does for fun in North Dakota.
"It's always good to build that team camaraderie," Matthews said.
He said his absence this spring was "definitely not ideal."
"I didn't like last year, having to be out of training camp, and then having to go straight into Week 1. That's not me. It's never been me. This has been a hard time. At the same time, it is what it is. So I'm just going to do my best to get back to 100 percent so I can be out there with the guys," Matthews said.
Matthews said he won't talk in depth about his knee "until I get 100 percent." A skeptic's view would be that Matthews has no contract beyond this season and is being extremely careful, though Matthews said that is not the case. He said he is not worried about the injury. Or his contract.
"When I started playing ball, it was never to make money," he said. "It was never to gain notoriety, or fame. I just wanted respect in the neighborhood.
"My biggest thing is just getting out there so I can continue to build, with the team, so we can get our respect out here in the city and in the whole NFL."
One reason Matthews is still working on his rookie deal is that he has been the best of a really poor group for a couple of years now. Matthews is one of five players in NFL history with 65-plus receptions and 800-plus yards his first three years in the league. The others are Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, A.J. Green and Randy Moss. Is Matthews really on that level? It's his agent's job to argue that he is. But with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson added to the Eagles' receiving mix, not to mention rookie running back/receiver Donnel Pumphrey, Matthews' numbers in his contract year might suffer.
Matthews said it's hard to predict the effect - he could get the ball less, as new targets emerge, or he could be open and get the ball more, with defenses having more receivers to worry about.
Asked Thursday about the addition of veteran running back LeGarrette Blount to the Eagles' stable this spring, coach Doug Pederson was effusive.
"He's been a pro since he's been here . . . He's been a class act, obviously coming from a class organization and a championship organization (New England). That's the type of player and atmosphere and demeanor we're trying to build here," Pederson said.
One question has been how Blount will fit with a West Coast scheme, given that he has never been much of a receiving target. Pederson has said he is pleased to see Blount doing well with that task.
"I'm comfortable catching the football. It hasn't been a role that I've been called upon to do . . . I don't have a problem catching it," Blount said Thursday.
Blount has been a Buc, a Patriot, a Steeler, a Patriot again, and now an Eagle. Is learning a new offense easy at this point?
"Learning a new offense is never easy, considering the fact that you have to forget everything that you ever learned with the offense before, and then start rebuilding from scratch," Blount said. "But I've had a lot of help along the way with Duce (Staley, the running backs coach), with Darren (Sproles), with Byron (Marshall), with all the guys that have been here, Wendell (Smallwood), I've had a lot of help throughout the process."
Only the long-term injured are not projected to be ready for the start of training camp, at this point - rookie corner Sidney Jones (Achilles') and defensive tackle Beau Allen (pec tendon surgery) . . . Doug Pederson's parting words to his players: "I mentioned to them that training camp's going to be tough and physical, and I wanted 'em to be prepared mentally and physically to come into camp ready to go. If they're with teammates, take care of each other. Be smart, make good choices, good decisions."