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Penny tired of ‘what-ifs' as he enters make-or-break season

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He’s got the highest rushing average by a running back in NFL history. 

He’s one of only two running backs since 1960 to average 6.0 yards per carry in back-to-back seasons. 

He’s gotten 15 carries six times in his career and rushed for at least 135 yards in all but one of those games.

What would a full season of Rashaad Penny look like?

“I ask myself that every day,” Penny said with a laugh Wednesday at his locker.

Penny is one of the most interesting stories on the Eagles’ 2023 roster. 

Is he the guy who’s got the 3rd-most 30-yard rushing touchdowns in the NFL over the past five years or the guy who’s missed 32 games over the past three years?

Is he the guy who’s got a higher career rushing average than Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton or the guy who’s averaged just 67 carries per season as a pro?

Is he the guy who the Seahawks drafted in the first round in 2018 or the guy the Eagles signed for barely above minimum wage this year?

He’s a living, breathing mystery. And we’ll all start to learn on Sunday exactly who Penny is.

“Just dating back to being drafted by Seattle, I don't want to live my NFL career on ‘what ifs,’" Penny said. “I actually want to go out and do it. But I'm in a situation where I've got to take advantage of the opportunities that are there.”

Because who knows how many there will be?

Penny knows it won’t be easy to star in this offense playing alongside D’Andre Swift and Kenny Gainwell and perhaps Boston Scott, as well.

He knows the opportunities will be limited, and he’s got to be content with whatever carries and touches he gets.

“It won’t really be hard because your No. 1 goal is to win the Super Bowl,” he said. “I think that's a lot of people here's goal, winning the Super Bowl. So whenever you get your opportunity, make it the best. Take advantage of it. 

“Just like how preseason was. You're always getting like little spurts. So when you get your opportunity, it's all about taking advantage.”

Penny has played only 42 games in five NFL seasons and only 18 games since the start of 2020. He spoke during training camp about how cutting his weight from 235 to 225 pounds helped him stay healthy all summer and really allowed him to show the explosiveness and elusiveness that made him a 1st-round pick in the first place.

“Just trying to play a full season,” said Penny, who hasn’t played more than 10 games since his rookie year in 2018. “This training staff, I think they do an amazing job in just prepping us to get ready for practice. Just doing the little things on the side before practice and just getting ready. 

“I don't think we really had any injuries at practice. It just shows how good they are at what they do. So I'm very appreciative of them.”

So Penny is healthy for the first time in a long time. But what will his role look like?

He has no idea and it doesn’t seem like anybody really knows how the workload will be distributed among the backs. Even Nick Sirianni said it could change by the week or even by the series.

Penny allows that he’s a little concerned about not being able to get into a rhythm because of limited usage, but he also said he’s ready for anything. When you're in his position, you have to be.

“You just can't get a carry and get taken out of the game and your next carry is like a quarter later because you don't get the feel of the defense and the movement,” he said.

“But, again, if you study and prepare for the situations, I think everything always takes care of itself. And that's something I've been living by since being in Seattle. I just always say to myself, ‘Whenever the opportunity presents itself, just be ready.”

At 27, Penny knows this is a critical year as he tries to resurrect a once-promising career.

He knows people see him as a guy who’s always injured and he understands. It’s up to him to change the narrative.

That opportunity begins Sunday in Foxboro.

“I had two or three big injuries and I can’t change what happened in the past,” he said. “But I know my capabilities and my abilities. I know what I can do. I'm just excited about the opportunity I get and, you know? Whatever happens happens.”

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