Jeremy Maclin is among the most prideful players in the Eagles locker room. So when he had to miss three games during the 2011 season because of nagging shoulder and hamstring injuries, it ate away at him. Of course, he could have pointed to the debilitating mystery illness that robbed him of an offseason and forced him to come into the season underweight and without any preseason action, but Maclin would have none of that. He wanted to be out on the field.
On Thursday, it was hard not to think back to the frustration on Maclin's face during that three-week stretch last season (he had missed only one game in his first two NFL seasons) when the receiver took part in the day's Organized Team Activity, despite a wrapped ankle that he later described as "sore." Sure, it's just one spring practice and he could have taken the day to rest. But Maclin is on a mission to prove not only that he can be counted on, but that he's among the best receivers in the league.
"I'm just looking forward to getting out there," he said after practice, alleviating any concerns about the ankle. "I wish the season started tomorrow. That's how ready I am. I'm not going to let any of that stuff play a factor to what I'm capable of doing or how I produce this year."
At one point during practice, head trainer Rick Burkholder checked out Maclin's ankle to make sure everything was alright. Typically, at this stage of the offseason, one would expect Maclin, or whoever was being examined by Burkholder, to take it easy for the rest of practice. But there was Maclin minutes later running full-speed in full 11-on-11 drills.
"I think the best players get better every day and I think as long as I'm playing in this league, I want to continue to get better every day," he said. "That's the goal. Obviously, you take it one step at a time, one game at a time. So I think at the end of my career, that's when I'll finally reach my finished product. Now, people may say you age and you start slowing down, but I think the mental part of the game is a big key to how successful people are."
Oddly, considering he just turned 24 this month, Maclin was asked how long he planned to play football. See if you can tell if Maclin someone who, as Andy Reid would say, "loves to play the game."
"As long as my body will let me," he said. "As long as I can stay healthy, this is the game I love playing, this is the game I love doing so hopefully it'll be for a long time."
Even though Maclin's 2011 totals were a step down from his sophomore campaign, a closer look at the numbers reveals something a bit different. On a per-game basis, Maclin's receiving numbers set career highs. Extrapolated over 16 games, Maclin would have caught 77.5 passes for 1,057 yards in 2011, besting his 2010 totals of 70 catches for 964. All of that, of course, without an offseason in his arsenal.
In other words, well, we'll let the guy throwing Maclin the ball take it from here.
"I think this is going to be Jeremy Maclin's best year yet," said Michael Vick. "He has worked tremendously hard over the offseason. He has caught a ton of balls the last four-five days. I'm proud of him and I'm proud of his attitude most importantly."
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