The old and the new have dressing stalls right next to each other inside the Eagles’ locker room at the team’s training facility in South Philly, with Darren Sproles preparing for his 15th regular-season and Miles Sanders for his first when the Washington Redskins visit on Sunday.
“It feels like my first,” said Sproles.
“I’m doing what I love now,” said Sanders. “It sunk in (being in the NFL) probably the first preseason game, suiting up and getting ready for the game. It was even loud at our first preseason game and the practice was even loud. There was 40,000 people there watching us practice (at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 4). It definitely hit me. But everything counts now, so I’m just ready to play.”
Sproles and Sanders are both running backs.
The similarity ends there.
VIDEO: Darren Sproles on season opener and more
Sanders is a second-round draft pick and is just 22. He hasn’t recorded a single yard yet in the NFL.
“It’s been a lot of work and I’ve enjoyed it,” said Sanders. “This is my dream, to play in the NFL. Now that I’m here, I’m going to be the best I can be. I’m not going to take any shortcuts. I’m here to help the team win.”
Sproles was a fourth-round draft pick of the Chargers back in 2005. He is 36 and knocking on the door to the top five in NFL history in total yards from scrimmage.
“Actually, it means a lot to me, because when I first came into the league they told me that I wasn’t going to make it past one year because of my size,” said Sproles. “For me to get number five, it would be something special.”
His current total of 19,520 puts him in sixth at the moment. He needs 163 more to surpass Tim Brown’s total of 19,682. Emmitt’s Smith’s fourth-place total of 21,564 is probably out of Sproles’ reach. But with Sproles, who said prior to the 2017 season that he was going to retire at the end that year, but changed his mind when injuries ended his season early.
He said the same thing about retirement heading into 2018 then injury struck again. So Sproles is done putting an expiration date on what very well could be a Hall of Fame career.
“I don’t want to get into all that,” said Sproles. “My main thing is, I just want to enjoy every week, every practice, every trip we have together. That’s my whole thing.”
He added, “You always have to keep the body right. The thing is you start getting a little older you always have to do more to keep your body right … I feel like I’ve been really blessed.”
We will have to wait until Sunday to see how much Sproles is used. Head coach Doug Pederson has a tendency to fall in love with the veteran during game planning and probably use him more than he should be used. At least that seemed to be the case in last year’s opener when Sprols, who didn’t play in a single preseason game just like this year, had 12 touches – five rushing, four receiving and three punt returns.
He ended up tearing a hamstring that kept him out of the next 10 games.
Asked about Sproles’ role on Sunday, Pederson said: “Obviously primary punt return, and he's going to be a nice mix, change of pace on offense. You'll see him on third downs. This is a guy that can still be effective, not only in the run game but also in the passing game on third down and gives us the ability to empty the backfield from time to time. So we’ll continue to see his role expand that way.”
Pederson has also said that Sanders will have a role on Sunday.
“He told us (rookies) it’s not like college,” said Sanders. “He didn’t draft me to redshirt me. So I kind of started off fast coming into training camp just doing what I had to do and getting better every day. I’m ready, I’m ready.”
Sanders has many more opening days ahead of him while this could be Sproles’ last.
“They’re all special to me,” said Sproles. “Any time you get to go out there and play, they’re all special.”