Happy to be back, Darren Sproles excited for expanded role in Doug Pederson's offense


Darren Sproles is at Eagles minicamp — and, yes, he's happy to be here.

Under ordinary circumstances, that might not be news, but Sproles caused a bit of a stir by skipping the club's voluntary offseason program. Then shortly after word of his absence got out, a report claimed the 12th-year back was unhappy with his contract and had requested a trade.

Both the Eagles and Sproles previously attempted to put out the fire, but on Wednesday, the two-time Pro Bowler set the record straight once and for all.

"I don't know where all those rumors came from," Sproles said. "People just writing stuff, I guess."

Sproles confirmed he stayed home during OTAs because of a family issue. As for how Doug Pederson felt about the decision, the veteran ball-carrier acknowledged the head coach was supportive throughout.

"It speaks big," Sproles said of Pederson's attitude, describing the coach as laid-back. "Doug played, though, so he knows about the family stuff. He had stuff like that, so he knows."

Sproles also indicated he spoke to running backs coach Duce Staley "every day" he was away.

Pederson wasted little time in thrusting Sproles into the mix. Just hours after the head coach indicated he would be eased into the rotation, Sproles wound up taking a healthy number of first-team reps at Tuesday's practice (see story).

"I just wanted to see him," Pederson said. "I spoke with Duce Staley and said 'Duce, if we can find a spot to give him an opportunity where he's not necessarily in traffic, let's see what he can do.'"

Sproles, who turns 33 in June, is entering the final year of his contract with the Eagles, which may have prompted speculation there was more to his absence than a little extra time off.

As far as he's concerned, that's absolutely not the case. Sproles insisted it was good to be back with his teammates, adding that he's also a big fan of Pederson and the coach's offense, which he suspects will make it harder to game-plan for his unique skillset.

"Doug's real cool," Sproles said. "I like Doug. I like the plays, where [he] has the running backs and stuff like that. He has running backs everywhere. I really like his offense."

Pederson talked a little about how he envisions Sproles' role in his offense.

"If you go back and just look at what we did in Kansas City with our running backs with Jamaal [Charles] before he got hurt, and then with the two guys after the injury, we like to move our running backs around, and [Sproles is] a guy that creates matchups on defense, or against the defense, and we're going to move him around.

"We are not necessarily going to keep him in the backfield. His role will be extensive, both offensively and also on special teams, and I'm excited to kind of get to see what he can do this week a little bit."

A true dual threat, Sproles carried 83 times for 317 yards and three touchdowns in addition to catching 55 passes for 388 yards and a score in 2015. His production through the air is actually down with the Eagles the past two seasons, an issue Pederson sounds intent on rectifying.

Contrary to any reports that suggest otherwise, Sproles is fine with that — just as long as he helps the Eagles return to the playoffs.

"We've gotta get back to the playoffs," Sproles said. "We haven't been to the playoffs in what? Two years? We've gotta get to the playoffs, that's our first goal.

"Then, when we get to the playoffs, we're gonna come back and make another goal."

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