Jeremy Maclin's season was over before it even started, thanks to tearing the ACL early in Training Camp. It was a shame in general, but even more so considering what a perfect fit Maclin was thought to be for Chip Kelly's offense. In a contract year, big things were expected from the 25-year old. Instead, Maclin was forced to rehab and watch from the sidelines.
"I think the most important thing right now is getting myself back (100 percent healthy), "Maclin said. "I'm excited just to be able to look forward to playing next season, but at the same point I'm disappointed and upset for these guys that they came up short. It's bittersweet, but at the same time, I think the most important thing for me is just to get healthy."
It was an unexpected situation for Maclin, who had missed just five games in his four NFL seasons prior to 2013, to be relegated to the sidelines as a spectator (though he did suffer a torn ACL in college). It was especially frustrating because of the success the team had while Maclin was powerless to help, though the receiver tried to focus on the positives from a team-development standpoint.
"It was frustrating, personally, but at the same time I was happy for these guys," Maclin said. "I was happy to see Riley (Cooper) step up and emerge as a playmaker in this league. I was happy to see DeSean (Jackson) go out there and make plays, too. I'm happy for these guys. I have not one selfish bone in my body. These guys have worked hard, so it was good for me to sit back and watch these guys go out there and have the success that they had."
Contract situations for incumbent free agents, especially those at the peak of their earning powers, like Maclin, make for a tricky situation for any team. Compounding that is balancing the normal risk-reward of a long-term contract when the outlook is even more uncertain because of injury.
"I'm just going to take it as it comes," Maclin said when asked about his free agency plan. "I know there are a lot of things that are going to happen in the next couple months for myself and for this organization, and I'm pretty sure everything will work itself out."
Maclin expressed interest in returning to the Eagles, and that interest was mutual at one point.
"We had some discussions earlier on about plans for the future and stuff like that," Maclin said. "We'll see what happens."
First, however, Maclin needs to make sure his knee is back in peak condition. While the rehab is going well, there's still a long way to go.
"I'm running right now, the next step is going side to side," Maclin said. "Everything is going well. I'm pleased with where I am right now and am happy with the way things are going."
As Maclin observed the season from afar, he got to see the evolution of quarterback Nick Foles, with whom he developed great chemistry during the 2012 season. In fact, in six games with Foles, Maclin put up 479 yards and three touchdowns on 37 catches. He was a believer in the second-year quarterback last year, and he's a believer now and for the future.
"I think it was wonderful," Maclin said of Foles' 2013 season. "I think he emerged as an elite quarterback in this league. I think just got better and better each and every week. He set the standard so high for himself that when he didn't go out there and throw for 350 (yards), people were (surprised and disappointed). He played tremendously. The numbers don't lie He had a wonderful season being quarterback, and I think he'll only continue to grow."
Whatever happens with Maclin moving forward, he trusts that what he went through this season was for a reason, and he is a player who is determined to come back better than ever in 2014 and beyond. Hopefully, it's with the Eagles.
"Everything happens for a reason," Maclin said. "I'm a firm believer that I got hurt for a reason, that's how I look at it."
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