Jeremy Maclin got hurt last year. He knows this. He’s fully aware he missed all of last season from a torn-up knee he suffered in training camp. He’s fairly versed on the fact that he also once missed a season in college from the same injury.
Those are facts.
What’s fiction, Maclin seemed to suggest, is that he’s made of glass. That he’s so fragile he can’t be relied on to hold up for 16 games and produce the breakout season that Maclin keeps saying he's primed to do.
Someone had asked the veteran wideout Sunday if scary vignettes, like the one from Thursday's preseason game when Maclin hit the ground hard and stayed there for several seconds, are inevitable moments fans have to accept.
“I don't know, you tell me,” Maclin fired back. “I missed last season off of a fluke injury. Prior to that, I think I missed four games, five games my whole career. So you tell me.”
Maclin’s testiness continued when another reported followed up about perceptions that he’s always nicked or bruised.
Do those theories annoy him?
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “For four years straight I played the most snaps at receiver on our team.”
It’s been a roller-coaster two weeks for Maclin. He showed the best of him against the Patriots in joint practices, scorching All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis and Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty on back-to-back days for long touchdown catches.
And he showed the other side, tweaking his hamstring after roasting McCourty, and sitting out the preseason game. Maclin returned to practice quickly, then looked good in Thursday’s preseason game against the Steelers. He led the team in receiving with six catches for 43 yards, but also turned the entire stadium silent when he collapsed to the ground after a gruesome-looking cut.
“Obviously, I had the little thing that happened in the game. Obviously when something like that happens I get flashbacks,” he said. “But I try not to think about it. I’ve come a long way. It’s been over a year now and I’m ready to go.”
Maclin, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, has since said he envisions a major role in Chip Kelly’s offense. For most of the early preseason, he’s lined up on the outside opposite Riley Cooper, with Brad Smith manning the slot.
But Smith’s role has gradually faded as rookie Jordan Matthews has sped up his learning curve, and Maclin anticipates a creative offensive scheme that lines him all over the place, including the slot. In the offseason, Maclin told reporters he figured to see ample time in the slot.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Maclin can be dangerous when matched up against nickel corners, safeties or linebackers.
“He's quick. He certainly can get deep fast,” Shurmur said. “He's good at running the post and some of the deeper routes. So any time you have a threat, whether he's playing outside or inside, it helps you, and there's reasons why we use him schematically.”
Maclin still refuses to discuss statistical milestones, but he knows numbers will factor into his negotiations next year.
“Yeah, but at the same time, if I think I'm gonna be a big part of the offense like I think I can,” he said, “those things will come.”