When the Eagles packed their belongings and headed into the offseason in early January, one certainty seemed to be that running back Ryan Mathews would no longer be on the team when it reconvened for training camp.
But rookies, quarterbacks and select vets — vets like Mathews, who are coming off seasons ended by injury — reported to NovaCare for camp Sunday and will take the field for the first time Monday, with Mathews still on the roster and likely to remain there into August, a source close to the situation said Sunday.
Mathews won't be on the field Monday. He is still recovering from neck disk surgery, and his surgeon doesn't want to revisit the matter until sometime next month, the source said.
Mathews, a hard-charging runner with an extensive injury history, had landed on injured reserve the week of the season finale against Dallas. He'd suffered a neck injury Dec. 22 against the Giants that capped a frustrating, erratic season for the Eagles' leading rusher (155 carries, 661 yards, a crucial fumble at Detroit that probably cost the team a victory).
But Mathews had a year remaining on his contract. Releasing him while injured would cost the team more than $1.1 million, the money coming directly off the Eagles' meager cap space. So the decision was to wait for Mathews to pass a physical, at which point he could be released. He'll still count $1 million in dead cap money this year, but the Eagles won't be paying him; the only thing affected will be the cap space. If and when he passes the physical.
Mathews is scheduled to make $4 million this season, and to count $5 million toward the cap, according to spotrac.com. Given the signing of LeGarrette Blount and the drafting of Donnel Pumphrey, there is virtually no chance the team will keep Mathews around, when he is declared healthy.