It could have been worse, much worse.
When Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill collapsed to the ground clutching his left knee after a collision with running back Jordan Howard late in Saturday’s practice and had to be carted from the field, the immediate thought was ACL.
Turns out, the injury is a Grade 3 MCL sprain, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
It typically takes six to eight weeks to heal, which means Grugier-Hill could miss the first few games of the season.
How the Eagles elect to proceed if that is the case, remains to be seen. They could keep him on the 53-man roster or put him on six-week Injured Reserve with a designation to return.
Grugier-Hill was had a strong offseason and was having a solid training camp, getting most of the first-team reps with Nate Gerry. Free agent Zach Brown had gotten the bulk of his time with the second team while Nigel Bradham continues to do mostly rehab work for a foot injury.
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Before getting hurt, Grugier-Hill broke up a Carson Wentz pass at the goal line. On Thursday, he had a goal-line interception of Wentz.
“He’s really coming into his own,” said head coach Doug Pederson about Grugier-Hill. “I mean, he's obviously getting those first team reps at linebacker and he's a core special teams (player) for us. Really excited about him and what he brings to our football team. He was a young player who is now starting to really grow into his role and has been good all of camp.”
The Eagles are already without veteran Paul Worrilow, who the team listed as week to week as he battled through knee pain.
So what is the trickledown with Worrilow and now Grugier-Hill out?
Free agent signing L.J. Fort is known for his special teams work, and could be in line for a roster spot. There had been some thought that maybe Fort could be a casualty of the numbers game, sort of the way Corey Nelson was last year when he was signed in the offseason only to be released prior to the regular season.
Undrafted free agents Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards could play themselves onto the team, at least until Grugier-Hill can return.
Both players can play special teams, though neither has really stood out much since camp opened. That could change with an increase in reps going forward and a close eye will be on them when the Eagles open the preseason on Thursday against the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field.
On Friday, the Eagles released undrafted free agent linebacker Joey Alfieri and added tight end Alex Ellis. Alfieri won’t be coming backafter the New York Giants claimed Alfieri Saturday afternoon.
An intriguing prospect is veteran Johnathan Cyprien, who was signed on Friday and safety Godwin Igwebuike was released.
Cyprien, who is wearing No. 41, has the skillset to be a hybrid type of safety/linebacker. He is coming off an ACL injury last year and remained unsigned so late into NFL camps for a reason.
“The minute I walked out onto the field, it was a blessing,” Cyprien told reporters. “It’s special to me. It’s something I love to do. Now I’m focused on the playbook and getting that down and competing at a high level.”
Cyprien was the 33rd player taken overall in the 2013 NFL Draft and played four seasons with the Jaguars before spending only last season with the Titans.
“He's just got to come in and embrace the role,” said Pederson. “He has been a box safety a bunch in his career and he’s a physical guy. No one better to learn from obviously than Malcolm (Jenkins) and what Malcolm does in that safety position. It's just about him coming in and picking up our defense as fast as he can, fitting into that role, and hopefully these pre-season games he gets time to show us what he can do.”
To the Linc
The Eagles will hold their only open-to-the-public practice on Sunday evening.
At 2 p.m., the lots at Citizens Bank Park, M and N open then the K lot opens at 4 p.m. All the gates will be open at 5 p.n. with the practice start time set for 7 p.m.
Tickets are required this year at a cost of $10 per seat. The money goes to the Eagles’ Autism Challenge.
“We go through camp and it can get kind of monotonous, the same thing every day,” Wentz told reporters. “Fans are here at our (NovaCare) facility but over there (at the Linc), it’s different animal and they show up in the thousands and that gives us an extra boost.”
McLeod ramping up
Safety Rodney McLeod began the week getting some work in seven-on-seven drills.
On Saturday, McLeod took his rehab from a torn ACL last year up another notch, competing in 11-on-11 team drills. He did not participate in the live hitting session, but it’s still a big step in the right direction.
McLeod began the offseason simply being on the field at practice to take the so-called “mental reps.”
“It feels good to get back out there competing, lining up against guys in team period and seeing Zach Ertz across from me in the run game or pass game,” McLeod told the Eagles web site. “It’s all good work for me.
“Hearing fletch (Fletcher Cox) barking at me in 11-on-11 drills, I can’t wait to get him back, (Ronald) Darby, (Jalen) Mills, a lot of these guys are working hard to get back for this team and be ready to rock this season.”
Neither Cox not Darby have taken the step to work in 11-on-11 and Mills remains on the active/PUP list.