The wait is over for Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones IV, who on Saturday was taken off the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list and added to the team's 53-man active roster. Jones is eligible to play, and is expected to play, Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in the regular-season finale for the Eagles.
Jones filled the roster spot created when the Eagles placed linebacker Joe Walker on Injured Reserve on Friday.
Jones, expected to be a top 10-15 draft pick in the first round of April's draft, tore his Achilles tendon in a March 10 Pro Day workout at the University of Washington. Jones fell to the second round of the draft and was selected by the Eagles with the 17th pick of that round, 43rd overall.
Since then, Jones has been working on rehabbing his injury, getting into the weight room to improve his overall body strength, and participating in all team meetings and activities – other than on-field action. A three-week practice window began on December 13 and Jones ramped up his participation each week.
Now he's healthy and about to play football. Jones could potentially see some action on Sunday against Dallas, although there has been no indication of his role in the game.
It hasn't been an easy road for Jones, who has largely stayed silent during the season. He attended every game, home and away this season, was in every meeting, and was treated just like every other cornerback all year until the team took the field for practices and games. His hard work paid off when the Eagles opened his practice window three weeks ago.
"He's worked really, really hard to put himself in this position," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said at that time. "He's had a big injury, he's been diligent, he's been consistent, he's kept a great attitude, and all that will serve him, but, you know, you just have to see how it is on the field, because we can't judge him based on any other rookie or any other veteran player. He's at a completely different spot."
Clearly, the Eagles liked what they saw from Jones in his three weeks of practice, enough to get him ready to play on Sunday. Every roster spot is a valuable one heading into the postseason, so the addition of Jones means something: He has earned this promotion. He has shown he is ready to play in an NFL game. This is a great moment in a young man's life after suffering such a devastating injury.
But let's keep this in perspective and temper our expectations. Jones hasn't played in a game since December 31, 2016 when his Washington Huskies lost to Alabama 24-7 in the Peach Bowl, the College Football Playoff semifinal. Jones was brilliant in an All-American season, allowing not a single touchdown pass.
He was the total package and projected in mock drafts to be a high first-round draft pick. The Achilles tendon injury, which happened during a routine backpedal drill, altered those thoughts.
But all of that is in the past. Jones has kept a positive attitude through all of this, hopeful that he would suit up this season. Sunday, it happens.
"I can't even describe how happy and excited I am. It's been a long road," Jones said after his first practice three weeks ago. "I'm just happy to be back with my team. It's been a long journey. I've had a great support system around me. Everybody's been helping me."
The achievement is remarkable. Tearing an Achilles tendon in March and playing in an NFL game on the final day of December is a rewarding moment for Jones. All of the hard work and the dedication through long hours of rehab were worth it.