Arrelious Benn becomes the third Eagle to suffer a torn ACL in training camp. (AP)
On the day the Eagles welcomed back one wide receiver, another one went down with what’s likely a season-ending injury.
Arrelious Benn, who joined the Eagles in an offseason trade with Tampa Bay, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during practice Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. The injury occurred during a special teams drill.
Benn, a former second-round pick whose career has been derailed by injuries, had just returned to practice Sunday after suffering a knee injury on the first day of camp. The Eagles also saw the return of fourth-year wideout Riley Cooper, who missed four days and three practices to undergo counseling (see story).
A big, physical wideout who can play outside and the slot along with special teams, Benn had figured to be in the mix to help replace starter Jeremy Maclin, who blew out his knee on the second day of camp.
Asked on Sunday what he needed to showcase in order to make the team, Benn said, “Stay healthy.”
Instead, Benn became the third Eagle this camp to tear a knee ligament, joining Maclin and linebacker Jason Phillips. All three ACL injuries occurred on the same field.
Benn will likely go on injured reserve, ending his season.
The Eagles, who also released wide receiver Dave Ball on Tuesday, still have nine receivers in camp, but very few with starting experience. Cooper is in line to start opposite Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson, with veteran Jason Avant mainly playing the slot.
Behind Cooper and Avant are Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Nick Miller and rookies Ifeanyi Momah, Russell Shepard and Will Murphy. Salas has the third-most catches in a season among Eagles wideouts, with 27 for the Rams in 2011. Cooper has had 23 receptions in a season, Johnson had 19 last year as a rookie and Miller’s career best is three.
The Eagles in March surrendered a sixth-round pick for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Benn and a seventh-round pick. Benn, who is just the fourth player in University of Illinois history with over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, had caught 59 passes for 862 yards and five touchdowns in his three years with the Bucs but started just 24 games and had endured one injury after another.
But his inability to stay healthy followed him to Philadelphia. He hurt his knee on the first day of camp and didn’t get back until Sunday, when he made an immediate impression. After that practice, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Benn’s track record of injuries wouldn’t factor into the team’s evaluation of him.
“We've just got to take him the way he is,” Kelly said. “He's had some injuries in his career, but our thought isn't if he's clear and ready to go like he was today in practice. I was actually pleasantly surprised because of the time away, sometimes there is an ease back in factor, I didn't see that from him.
“At this point in the time, he's been in the league for a while, he's an experienced player, so what can we use him for? Right now, with his size, his ability to play special teams, he can bring a lot to the table. So really happy that we had a chance to get him back out there today.”