After sweating out cuts, Polk knows pressure is on

After sweating out cuts, Polk knows pressure is on

September 3, 2014, 8:00 am
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Despite a hamstring injury that kept him out all preseason, Chris Polk still made the Eagles' 53-man roster. (USA Today Images)

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The pressure's on me. I know the pressure's on me because I didn't do anything in camp.
— Chris Polk

Chris Polk sweated out every minute of final cut day.

Especially when Eagles general manager Howie Roseman called him Saturday and told him to go meet with head coach Chip Kelly.

“They scared the crap out of me,” Polk said. “I got a call from Howie, and he told me to meet with Chip, and I’m thinking, 'Aw damn, I’m gone, I’m gone.'

“So I met with Chip and he’s like, 'You made the team.' I was just relieved.

“They did that my rookie year, too. Duce (Staley) called me from an unknown number. I’m like, ‘Oh man, I’m gone, I’m gone.’ Duce tried to have a cool conversation with me. I’m like, ‘Spit it out. Am I on the team or not?’ He finally told me I made the team.

“It’s just a real nerve-racking experience You never know what’s going to happen.”

Polk had reason to be concerned when the Eagles made final cuts over the weekend.

Not only did he miss all of the preseason with a hamstring tear, in his absence, Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey both shined.

Tucker led the NFL with four rushing touchdowns in the preseason, averaged 5.2 yards per carry and has NFL experience. Josey led the NFL with 6.6 yards per carry in the preseason and was second with 225 rushing yards.

“We had a stable of running backs that were showcasing their abilities every week and did some tremendous things,” Polk said. “You never know what they’re thinking. I didn’t know. I was just waiting to see where the cards came out.

“No one wants to sit out for five weeks, especially during the most important part of training camp. No one wants to sit out for five weeks.”

But head coach Chip Kelly and Staley, the Eagles’ running backs coach, saw enough in Polk’s brief action last year to give him a roster spot despite no preseason (see story).

For an undrafted free agent who was brought in by the previous coach and hasn’t been healthy in several years, that’s a rarity.

“The pressure’s on me,” Polk said. “I know the pressure’s on me because I didn’t do anything in camp. Now that I’m five weeks behind, I’ve really got to go out there and showcase what I can do.”

Polk only has 11 career carries, but if anything happened to LeSean McCoy, he’d be the next guy in. Darren Sproles is talented but is hardly a workhorse type of back. Polk is.

Potentially.

The reality is Polk has never had more than four carries in a game. But he is the only running back in NFL history to rush for three touchdowns in a season on 11 or fewer carries.

And he’s still not totally healthy, although he said he’s getting close.

“The hamstring is getting there,” he said. “I’m real close.”

Asked when he’ll be ready to play, Polk said: “Most likely this week."

But he added that until the Eagles practice in pads -- which they didn’t do Tuesday but are scheduled to do Wednesday -- he won’t really know how close he is to 100 percent.

“I really don’t know, I can’t put a number on it until we practice in full pads,” he said. “But the plan is [to play] this Sunday.”

Polk said his concern remains his ability to make decisive cuts without aggravating the injury.

“I tore it cutting, and until I’m where I want to be and where I need to be for cutting, I’ll be [less than 100 percent],” he said. “My style of running, I just want to stick my nose in there and get those tough yards and without a healthy hamstring I can’t do that.”

Will Polk be ready Sunday? If not, the Eagles will either have to go with Sproles as McCoy’s backup for a week or activate Tucker off the practice squad.

“It’s definitely a long season so it wouldn’t be to too smart to rush it one week and then hurt it and aggravate it in the game and then you’re out the rest of the year,” Polk said.

“You’ve just got to play it smart. You know your body. You know where you’re at. You’ve just got to be honest with yourself. We’ve just got to see.”

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