Eagles' Donnel Pumphrey back with one chance to prove himself


After being sidelined for nearly three weeks, Eagles running back Donnel Pumphrey returned to practice Sunday.

He’s just hoping it isn’t too late.

The 23-year-old running back felt some tightness in his hamstring the Tuesday before the Eagles’ first preseason game — way back on Aug. 7. He thought he’d be fine, but an MRI showed a hamstring strain. Before he returned to practice Sunday, he had missed 18 straight days, including the first three preseason games.

It’s awfully hard to make a team from the sideline.

“It was a disappointment more just because I was having a good camp,” Pumphrey said before Sunday’s practice. “I feel like if I still play well, I have a fair shot.”

The good news for Pumphrey is that the injury didn’t last through the end of the preseason. He has three days of practice and the fourth and final preseason game to prove that he belongs on the roster, that he belongs in the NFL.

The other bit of good news is that no one else in the competition for the fourth and (likely) final running back spot has separated themselves. Matt Jones has been bad. Josh Adams missed some time. And Wendell Smallwood has been fine but might be running out of chances.

Which leads us to Pumphrey. There was a time early in training camp where it wasn’t crazy to think that he was actually in the lead for the job. After all, he was a fourth-round pick last year and the Eagles even moved up in the draft to take him. But as a rookie, Pumphrey just looked like he didn’t belong. He was overmatched in practice and that carried over into games.

So this summer, when he looked like he at least belonged in practice, it was fair for the team to hope it would carry into games. But he never got that shot.

Until Thursday. It might be his last chance to stick.

“Really, just put something on film and do some good things,” he said when asked what he wants to show against the Jets Thursday night at the Linc. “Really, just play my game and not go out there and try to do too much. That will usually get you in trouble.”

Despite missing nearly three weeks, Pumphrey said the trainers were able to keep him in really good shape. He thinks he’s ready for a lot of this week. That’s a good start. In addition to reps as a running back, Pump hopes he’ll be able to show something as a returner too. That could give him an edge.

This whole injury business is new to Pumphrey, who, despite his small stature, was able to remain incredibly healthy at San Diego State. Now, he’s suffered hamstring injuries on the same leg in consecutive years.

“I can’t control what I can’t control,” Pumphrey said. “Just staying focused on my future.”

It’s pretty clear that the young running back’s future is sort of hanging in the balance right now. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a week of practice and a preseason game that doesn’t mean a lot to most people. It means a ton to Pumphrey, though.

He’ll finally get a shot to prove that he belongs. Hopefully, for him, it isn’t too late.

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