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Teammates of Jeremy Maclin expressed cautious optimism but also empathy and concern after the veteran wideout went down with a right knee injury at practice Saturday. The injury was later confirmed to be a torn ACL that will likely cause Maclin to miss the 2013 season (see story).
The scene from the practice field looked harrowing and gruesome as Maclin, a fourth-year wideout in the final year of his contract, went down at the end of a 7-on-7 drill and writhed in pain while the medical staff rushed to his aid.
Maclin, who was eventually carted off the field, was still having his knee evaluated when his teammates were available for comment.
“Hopefully it’s not too bad and he can get back out here and play with us again this year,” Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson said. “Anytime a player goes down on a stretcher and things like that you definitely have to be concerned. But until we know further, you’ve just got to keep praying for him.”
Maclin went down shortly after catching a pass from quarterback Michael Vick. He had first tried to move around but then dropped. Head coach Chip Kelly kneeled over Maclin as the medics examined his knee and general manager Howie Roseman stood nearby.
As a motorized cart transported him off the field, Maclin covered his face with a towel and was then helped into the NovaCare Complex locker room with his arms around two staff members. It appeared that he wasn’t bearing any weight on the injured knee.
“I [saw] it out the corner of my eye,” Vick said. “I [saw] him fall. And usually when a guy falls like that it’s something to be worried about.”
Kelly didn’t address the media after practice.
The play happened during the first hour. It was just the second training camp practice under Kelly. Several teammates wore stunned expressions and left tackle Jason Peters, who’s coming back from surgery on his Achilles, gave Maclin a pat on the back before the receiver was taken inside.
“It's really tough to go on, especially within five minutes of it,” said center Jason Kelce, who’s coming off an anterior cruciate ligament tear from last season. “The first five minutes, we all got in a huddle and everybody was shaking their heads almost just in disbelief.
“After you get going a little bit, you kind of put it in the back of your head and you can move on a little bit. And then ironically, when practice starts coming down that's when you start thinking about it a little more again.
“That's a terrible situation, everybody has seen it happen in camp, it's just one of those things that happens, so you kind of get accustomed to dealing with it, unfortunately. It doesn't do us any good to sit there and grieve about it. The only thing as a team we can do is go out there and try to get better and hope for the best for Jeremy."
The Eagles have depth at wideout, including reliable veteran Jason Avant and third-year pro Riley Cooper, but none of the reserves has the resume and credentials of Maclin. The Eagles drafted Maclin out of Missouri in the first round of the 2009 draft, 19th overall after trading up.
Maclin led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (857) and touchdown catches (7) and caught the game-winning touchdown at the buzzer from Nick Foles against Tampa Bay to help the Eagles snap their eight-game losing streak.
Fifteen of Maclin’s 26 career touchdowns have come in the red zone, and last year he became just the eighth receiver in NFL history to have at least 55 catches in each of his first four seasons, joining a list that includes Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison and Keyshawn Johnson.
Adding insult to injury, this was the final year of Maclin’s rookie deal. Even without an extension he attended all spring camps and not once complained about his lame-duck status. Maclin had said he looked forward to earning his next payday.
“He was going to be a big part of what we do,” Vick said. “Getting him involved was very important. There were some great plays designed for him, but it can’t change our game plan. We hope and pray that everything is going to work out for Maclin and he’s gonna be back.”
Maclin had recently talked about the newer, balanced offense under Kelly that didn’t feature the Pro Bowler Jackson as the primary target on every play the way Andy Reid’s offense did. Maclin had figured the opportunity to post career numbers would be there for him.
But with the way he looked when he went down, teammates are only concerned with Maclin’s well-being.
“You’re always worried about worst-case scenario,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “You hate it more for the individual than you do for its impact on the team, especially somebody like Mac, who was all in. Eats, drinks and sleeps football. He’s done a lot for this team and wants to do a lot more. You just know it’s gonna be hard on him mentally if it's bad.”