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Dennis Kelly underwent back surgery in August after struglling with lingering pain early in preseason. (USA Today Images)
Offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who underwent back surgery earlier this month, said Tuesday he expects to be cleared Sept. 16 to return to practice and is hoping the Eagles keep him active when final cuts come on Saturday.
The Eagles could place Kelly on Injured Reserve, ending his season, or keep him on the 53-man roster until he’s healthy, which could leave them thin at tackle until he’s ready to play.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but it’s not too deep in the season, so hopefully they don’t put me on IR,” Kelly said. “I actually feel great, it’s just a matter of building my strength back up. I’m hoping to get cleared when I meet the doctor two Mondays from now.”
Kelly, a second-year pro, underwent disc surgery on Aug. 8 after struggling with lingering back pain early in the preseason. Kelly said he played with back discomfort most of last year.
Kelly started 10 games as a rookie, three at right guard in place of Danny Watkins and then seven at right tackle after Todd Herremans got hurt.
He projected as the Eagles’ top offensive tackle off the bench this year, but the injury and surgery combined with solid play from backups Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin have clouded Kelly’s status.
Promising undrafted rookie Michael Bamiro is also on the roster, and Matt Kopa has also gotten some work at tackle.
If Kelly is cleared on Sept. 16, it would likely take him a couple weeks to be ready to play after missing a month of practice. But even if he misses two more games, he’d still presumably be ready by Week 5.
The Eagles have to weigh carrying Kelly for a month when he’s unavailable with placing him on IR and losing him for the season.
Kelly said he’s been doing some light cardio, agility work and some pool rehab and expects to resume lifting soon.
Kelly last year became the first Eagles rookie to start seven or more games at offensive tackle since Tra Thomas in 1998.