Maclin gets clean bill of health

Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin (with Michael Vick) had suffered a loss of appetite and night sweats.
Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin (with Michael Vick) had suffered a loss of appetite and night sweats. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 18, 2011

Doctors say Jeremy Maclin does not have a life-threatening illness, and the Eagles believe they can have their rising wide receiver on the field when the season opens Sept. 11, the team said Wednesday.

Maclin, who began suffering from weight loss, low energy, a loss of appetite, night sweats, and other symptoms in February, is feeling well and will begin running and lifting weights with the team Friday or Saturday in Philadelphia, Eagles head trainer Rick Burkholder said. If all goes well, Maclin could return to practice in seven to 10 days, Burkholder said on a conference call from Pittsburgh, where the Eagles play a preseason game Thursday night.

"I want everyone to know I'm fine, I'm healthy," Maclin told FoxSports.com.

After months of extensive testing, the Eagles still don't seem to know exactly what caused the 23-year-old's problems - Burkholder said it was still "vague" - but they ruled out illnesses such as cancer, HIV, Lyme disease, and anemia.

"We're confident that what he has is not life-threatening and he's able to go back to play football without problems," Burkholder said. "He doesn't have lymphoma, he doesn't have Hodgkin's, he doesn't have cancer - which is the hurdle we wanted to clear."

Maclin still has some "inflammation in his system" that will be treated, Burkholder said.

The Eagles had said little about Maclin's illness, at the player's request.

Doctors had tested Maclin for lymphoma and removed a large portion or all of one lymph node on Aug. 11, Burkholder said. Maclin told FoxSports that his lymph nodes had been enlarged.

The surgery was done laparoscopically, a minimally invasive procedure that allows a quick recovery.

It's "not uncommon" to have symptoms such as Maclin's but to be unable to resolve exactly what caused them, said Jack Jacoub, medical oncologist and hematologist at MemorialCare Cancer Center at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif.

If the problems were caused by a virus - and it sounds as if they may have been, because the team ruled out other likely causes - then Maclin should now have built up immunity and be protected from a recurrence, Jacoub said.

"If it's an infection, it's usually a one-time thing," he said. "It resolves, and that's it."

Wednesday's announcement capped months of tests, speculation, and worry.

"When the doctor sat me down and explained to me exactly what lymphoma is, that it's a form of cancer, it hit me when I walked out of his office and I broke down," Maclin told FoxSports.

Maclin began experiencing the symptoms in late February. The team, though, was out of touch with the receiver because of the NFL lockout and didn't learn about his ailments until about April, Burkholder said. Maclin, who lost about 15 pounds initially, began meeting with the Eagles' team physician, Gary Dorshimer, in April, but he also sought second opinions from doctors in St. Louis, where his surrogate father is a urologist.

"The crazy part was I put weight back on, I was working out, running routes. I felt fine, but the thought was always in the back of my mind that I could have cancer," Maclin told FoxSports.

He went through extensive blood tests, and PET and CT scans to check for cancer. He was tested for HIV and mononucleosis. They all came back clean, Burkholder said.

It was June when the team began checking Maclin's lymph nodes, the trainer said.

"I am a bit surprised, frankly, that it took three to five months to get all of that squared away," Jacoub said, but he added that Maclin must have undergone extensive testing.

Burkholder said the final diagnosis was delayed by scheduling, including doctors' vacations over the summer.

By the start of training camp, though, Maclin's symptoms had ceased, Burkholder said. He said the receiver was close to his normal weight.

As Maclin returns, the team will continue to do blood tests and monitor him for any recurrence of symptoms.

"Today was a sigh of relief," Maclin told FoxSports. "I don't wish this on anybody. . . . I already appreciate where I am and appreciate the game of football. I can't wait to get back out there and just resume my normal life."


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com, or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.

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