PHILADELPHIA – It won’t stop the phone calls to sports talk radio but Jalen Hurts’ opening-day decree that he will continue to embrace his uniqueness as quarterback does confirm that those obsessing over the star quarterback’s playing style are whistling into the wind.
“I am embracing the uniqueness of my game, and just being a triple threat out there,” Hurts said after Wednesday’s first training camp practice. “Just being someone knowledgeable and understanding of what’s going on, on the field, and being able to make those throws. And being able to cause problems on the ground as well.
“Those are the three areas of quarterback that I’m embracing, and that I want to continue to excel at.”
When the Eagles signed Hurts to a then-record-breaking $255 million contract extension in April, calls were renewed to limit Hurts’ touches in the running game, a mind-numbing exercise built on the long disproven idea that injuries can be legislated.
Yet, no matter how many times the Eagles’ say it, it doesn’t dissuade those who are trying to chase the dragon of 15 or 20 years of top-tier quarterback play.
The Eagles’ do all they can to limit injuries but that work is done off the field.
“Our strength and conditioning department, sports science, Ted Rath, and those guys. They do a phenomenal job and making sure that scientifically we’re putting ourselves in the best position,” All-Pro center Jason Kelce said before pivoting to the obvious. “Injuries are going to happen. You can’t avoid them. The league has a 100% injury rate and you’re going to be hurt at some point.”
Now 35, Kelce hasn’t missed a game since 2014, having played in 139 consecutive regular-season games, and is poised to break Jon Runyan’s franchise record of he continues through Week 6 of this season.
“There are things you can do to try and mitigate [injuries],” Kelce said. “And I think we do as good if not better than anybody in trying to stay healthy.”
In his two years as a starter, Hurts has missed three games, one in 2021 with a high-ankle sprain that eventually required surgery and two in 2022 with a sprained SC joint in his shoulder. He finished both campaigns fighting through each injury, however.
The nature of Hurts’ playing style is always going to make him more susceptible to injuries than a Tom Brady-style quarterback but the goal isn’t to pound a square peg in a round hole and take away what coach Nick Sirianni has called Hurts’ “superpower.”
“We didn’t pay him more to do less,” Sirianni said after the extension. “… We still think about how to protect him because that’s our job to protect our quarterback but Jalen does a lot of things really well and we want to utilize the skills that he has.”
Over his first two seasons as the full-time starter, Hurts, 24, has run for 23 touchdowns and carried the ball 304 times. As Hurts ages the natural evolution will alter his running style and tilt things toward the passing game.
In the meantime Hurts is cognizant of what his strengths of a player are and what brought him to the table as a Super Bowl quarterback and runner-up to MVP Patrick Mahomes.
“Everybody has different styles of doing things,” he told JAKIB Sports. “I think that’s why quarterback is one of the most unique positions because everybody gets it done in different ways.
“I think my way is a little different. It’s rare in a sense. Regardless, I always talk about you just want to find a way to get it done. We have great players on the team, and we all play well on the team, and we want to continue to do that.”
On Thursday afternoon, Cincinnati star quarterback Joe Burrow, a pocket-style passer who has already dealt with a torn ACL, was carted off the field at practice after a non-contact injury to his right leg later revealed as a calf injury by Bengals coach Zac Taylor. Hopefully, it isn’t as serious as it looked.
Football is an unforgiving game and that 100 percent injury rate Kelce spoke of is always lurking.
You can try to legislate the impossible or utilize what you have when you have it.
The Eagles have made the obvious choice with Hurts.