Duce Staley and Darren Sproles have stayed in touch.
The Eagles running backs coach and assistant head coach would love to have Sproles back, but quickly added “that’s not my decision.”
Staley will be involved in the process to decide a punt returner, though, and right now that is one of the few positions up in the air as the team begins a three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
Assistant coaches met with reporters on Monday, and Staley was asked who he thinks will be the punt returner.
“Me,” he joked.
“We don’t know,” Staley continued. “We’re working a couple guys, of course. We’ll see how that will work out. We know toward the end somebody will step up and take the position but right now we don’t know.”
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp talked about the challenges of not knowing who will be his units
There is somebody who wants to be a part of returning punts, and that is veteran receiver DeSean Jackson.
“I think he definitely wants to have some kind of a role in it,” said special teams coordinator Dave Fipp. “I’m definitely excited about that.”
Fipp wasn’t ready to quantify just how many punt returns Jackson may see this season, saying that there are plenty of questions surrounding how often, if at all, he would be used.
“There’s a lot of variable with a guy like that,” said Fipp. “Number one, how many plays is he playing, how old is he, how many plays can he handle, can he handle a big work load, can he not, does he want to do it, does he not want to do it? All those things factor into it.
“If you don’t want to do it then you’re not going to be very good. So all that stuff, what did he do on the last play, what’s the situation in the game? Are we up by a lot where it’s not worth the risk of getting an injury or something like that on a play like that. Is the head coach on board with playing him, is the owner, the general manager, are they all on the same page? There’s just a lot of variables.”
Jackson entered the league as a full-time punt returner with the Eagles. He returned 50 punts for 440 yards as a rookie in 2008 with one touchdown. The following year he had 29 punt returns for 441 yards and two touchdowns. In 2010, he had 20 punt returns for 231 yards, including the most memorable of his career, a 65-yard burst as time expired to give the Eagles a walk-off, 38-31 win on Dec. 19, 2010.
The play became known as Miracle of the Meadowlands III and was ranked No. 1 in a 2013 poll of NFL.com readers as the greatest play of all time.
The game itself is worth noting, since the Eagles trailed by 21 points with 7:28 to play before staging the comeback, which, of course, was capped off by Jackson’s electric return.
Jackson was just 24 then. Now 32 and a player who will likely figure prominently in the offense, his punt return days may be limited to high-leverage situations, such as when the Eagles may need a big play late in a game. He returned just eight punts combined in the past three seasons, two which were spent the Redskins, the other with the Buccaneers.
“I’ve always had a great relationship with him,” said Fipp. “He’s done a great job with us. My first year (2013) here was his last and he was great that year. He was really our primary guy. He was playing a huge offensive role and we probably had him do too much to be honest. We need to figure out a way to balance all that out, with all the parties involved. But I’m definitely very excited he’ll have some type of role.”