Maclin stays cool

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jeremy Maclin waits for his turn during a drill at training camp.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jeremy Maclin waits for his turn during a drill at training camp.

Receiver 'stronger' through adversity, injuries

Posted: July 29, 2014

AS THE SWEAT streamed from Jeremy Maclin's body after practice yesterday, somebody reminded him about a most dubious anniversary. One year to the day, on a freak play devoid of contact, Maclin cut one way and his leg bent the other, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and ending his season before it began.

"Pretty cool," he said, with that unassuming smile of his.

Pretty cool?

"It's been so long and yet I remember it like it was yesterday," he said. "I'm happy to be healthy and happy to be out there."

Yeah, sure, but . . .

Pretty cool?

"Obviously last year was tough," he said. "Because of the situation I was going through last year and the situation that us as an organization was going through. The new era was exciting and I wanted to be a part of that. But also personally, being in the last year of my contract wanting to go out there and get that long-term security. So I had a lot of things going on last season and unfortunately things didn't work out."

Since his return to practice back in April, Jeremy Maclin has professed that he is a "stronger" version of his former self. "You can just base it off certain things that you do in the weight room, on the football field," he said. "And also mentally stronger. When I talk about stronger I mean everything that goes into it."

Nick Foles has seconded that, and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has used "fantastic" to describe how Maclin has looked. With the players wearing pads for the first time today, it is hard to tell the hard fact from the hyperbole. Maclin said he bases it partly on "gains made in the weight room" but mostly on what he's able to do on the field. "Even yesterday being able to defeat guys at the line of scrimmage," he said. "Being able to dig and go track balls down. Being able to plant and come back to balls. Those are the plays I made before I got hurt and those are the plays I'm making now."

That's not necessarily stronger, but Kelly's heroes would gladly take that. In the four mostly healthy seasons that preceded his lost one, Maclin provided the kind of consistency and dependability Kelly has preached since the day he arrived. Maclin also fills nicely some of the leadership void created by Jason Avant's departure, an ideal veteran for rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to model their work ethic around.

Still, it is hard to tell if Maclin is physically stronger than he was before that gruesome injury.

It is also hard to believe that he is mentally stronger. This is a man, after all, who was abandoned by his father at 9 and raised by the little league football coach. This is also a man whose undisclosed illness in 2011 forced him to miss a chunk of training camp and led to wide speculation about cancer and his career ending, a man whose ACL tear last August was the second to that knee in his career and, coming at the onset of his final contract season, led to even more speculation about the end of his career.

He is barely 26 years old.

"There's a lot more that I will bring to the table," he said recently.

That's the big bet the Eagles made in jettisoning DeSean Jackson following a career-season laced with buts. In each of his four mostly healthy seasons, Maclin has not approached the 1,332 yards Jackson accumulated last season, but he's also not yet played in Kelly's breathless system. And while Jackson's mettle, or perceived lack of it, especially as games gained importance in December and January, is at least a part of why he is no longer an Eagle, it is worth noting that 14 of Maclin's 26 career touchdowns came from plays that began inside of the 20.

So, yeah . . . pretty cool.

At least for a person who has already converted a lifetime of bad breaks into golden opportunity.

"You've got to just keep growing each and every single day," Maclin said. "That's what I've asked myself to do and that's what I've tried to do . . . I've gone through a lot in my life over my lifetime, on and off the football field. It's kind of built who I am."

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

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