In a statement released on his personal blog site, Eagles running back Darren Sproles announced that this upcoming season will be his last. If you want to read his entire statement you can do so here. He goes into how 2017 was going to be his final year until he got injured.
“An injury is different; It’s something you don’t have any control over but I feel like I left a lot out there, and I couldn’t let my career end like that.”
I didn’t know what to make of Sproles’ return this season, but after reading this retirement statement, I think he’s in for a big year. He’s confident that he can still perform at a high level despite tearing his ACL not even 365 days ago. He claims to still have the speed and quickness that has made him one of the most dangerous back field weapons to ever play the game.
Sometimes it’s hard for players to admit when they’ve lost a step, especially a player of Sproles magnitude. But even he admits that he had doubts on whether he would be able to make a comeback.
“Coming back from any injury is tough—especially a knee injury for a running back. I wondered if I was going to come back the same, if I would still have my quickness. That’s the main thing because I don’t want to go out there and start getting smacked. Once I started rehabbing and running again I could tell I was good and ready for one more healthy year.”
Sproles has always been one of the hardest working players in the league, so to hear that he attacked his rehab like that is no surprise.
Once I heard he was officially retiring after this season, it got me thinking: is Darren Sproles a Hall of Famer? In my opinion, yes. The league has never seen a running back quite like him. A 5 foot nothing back with supreme quickness and open field elusiveness with a knack for making big plays in crunch time; not to mention his ability to return kicks and punts. He’s a swiss army knife for any offense that he’s put in to.
I also think Sproles doesn’t get enough credit for the longevity of his career. No one thought he’d even make it to the NFL, let alone become a veteran of 10-plus seasons. He’s been productive every single year that he’s played, and he’s stayed relatively healthy all throughout.
I know Sproles was never a lead back for any of the three teams that he’s played for, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t their most lethal weapon out of the back field. In San Diego, he had games where he outshined future Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson. In a 2008-09 playoff game against league MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts, he had perhaps the most memorable game of his career. L.T. started the game for the Chargers but was injured in the 2nd quarter with a groin injury. Sproles took over for the second half, and if you looked at the stat sheet you would’ve thought he played the whole game. He finished with 105 yards on 22 carries with 2 touchdowns, including the game winning TD in overtime.
Let’s not forget about his time with the Saints either, where he put up career receiving numbers. He didn’t have under 50 receptions any of the four years that he was with the team, and in 3 out of the 4 he had over 70. In 2012 he helped Drew Brees break the passing yards for a season record. He accumulated 86 receptions for 710 yards and 7 touchdowns that year. Those type of receiving numbers are unheard of for a running back. In a time where the passing game and passing stats are at an all time high, you would think that more running backs would duplicate these types of numbers, but no one has since Sproles in 2012.
Once Sproles came to Philly he was immediately the best offensive player on the team. 2015 was Chip Kelly’s last season with the Birds and he relied on Mighty Mouse more so than he did on Demarco Murray and Ryan Matthews, who Chip personally brought in through free agency. While Murray and Matthews struggled to pick up on Chip’s zone running scheme, Sproles proved he was the best of the bunch. Then in 2016, Douggie P’s first season as the head coach, Sproles was again the best weapon on the offense. The team didn’t have a number one receiver that year, and Carson didn’t really play consistent football in his rookie campaign. Sproles was the only player that Pederson could truly count on game in and game out.
Going into this season, he’s 8th on the all-time all-purpose yards list. With a couple nice runs and a nice return or two, he should be able to past Steve Smith (7) and Marshall Faulk (6). Faulk is already in the Hall of Fame, and Smith will surely join him in Canton one day.
To me, it’s pretty obvious that Sproles belongs in the Hall of Fame — but you never know. The Hall of Fame voters have made some questionable decisions in the past.
I expect Sproles to go out swinging in his final year and solidify his status as a future Hall of Famer. He deserves it.