Eagles running back Jay Ajayi playing through small fracture in his back
Jay Ajayi: "I've just got to push through it. …It's a pain tolerance thing at the end of the day. You've just got to be able to tolerate the pain and do things to protect it."
If any questions existed about Jay Ajayi's pain tolerance, the answer came when the Eagles' running back returned to play the second half in Week 2. Or just watch Ajayi run the ball Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
Ajayi suffered a back injury in the Week 2 loss in Tampa Bay. As it turned out, he had a small fracture in his back. Ajayi grimaced through the second half of that game, missed the Week 3 win against Indianapolis, but expects to play Sunday in Tennessee.
"That's basically what happened," Ajayi said Thursday. "I've just got to push through it. … It's a pain-tolerance thing, at the end of the day. You've just got to be able to tolerate the pain and do things to protect it."
Ajayi said he feels well now and can tolerate the pain. He was a full participant at Thursday's practice, after missing Wednesday's session. Darren Sproles, who was out the last two weeks with a hamstring injury, still has not returned to practice. If Sproles does not play Sunday, the Eagles' ground game against the Titans will be Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood. Josh Adams is also on the roster.
"It feels good to be back," Ajayi said. "It's always tough watching other guys go back to work, playing the game and you feel you can contribute. Definitely feels good to be healthy enough to be practicing and being ready to play in the game."
A back injury can sometimes linger throughout the year, but Ajayi categorized it as different than a muscular injury. He said he just needed to listen to the doctors and let his body heal. He has worked closely with the training staff since he suffered the injury, and he's "good enough to get out there."
With Ajayi on the sideline on Sunday, the Eagles had their best running game of the season. They had 35 carries for 152 yards, with Clement and Smallwood leading the way. The opponent, game circumstances, and even the quarterback factored into those statistics. Ajayi was happy for his teammates taking on a larger role, but as a competitive player, he admitted it was tough to watch the game go on without him.
Ajayi came to the Eagles in the middle of last season. He played only four games with Carson Wentz before the quarterback suffered his season-ending knee injury. And when Wentz returned to the lineup Sunday, Ajayi was out. He joked about it last week, eager to play with the Eagles' franchise quarterback, who has responsibilities at the line of scrimmage to adjust plays into the best run calls.
"I've got to get myself so I can enjoy being out there with him, because he's obviously a great talent and makes everything a lot easier," Ajayi said. "I'm excited to get a lot of our pieces back."
Ajayi noted that he has not been alone in the training room. He has worked closely with Sproles. And Alshon Jeffery has been working to return from his shoulder injury. Ajayi said the Eagles will be "exciting to watch" when the offense is at full health.
Ajayi can be a big part of the offense. He's the lead running back, and the Eagles need his punishing rushing style and ability to get yards after contact. He had three touchdowns in the first two games.
Ajayi said the injury was an "unlucky draw" and that injuries occur in a contact sport. He has considerable time left to prove himself this season. That will start Sunday.
"Now, I've got the opportunity to be out on the field," Ajayi said, "and [I'm] excited to go make some big plays this weekend."