Polk: ‘I Didn’t Come To This League To Be a Cheerleader’

When Chris Polk watched tape last year, he didn’t like what he saw.

“I saw myself on film, like man I don’t look too good, especially with those tight-fitting jerseys,” Polk said. “I’ve got to shed a few pounds.”

And so he did.

Polk said he has dropped 15 pounds this offseason and is currently practicing at 215.

“That’s where I want to be at, especially with this high-paced offense,” Polk said. “You’ve got to make people miss and run in space, catch it. You’ve got to have your wind. So it was the best thing to really fit this scheme, get down lighter, be faster, get your wind up.

“I was on that kind of diet where whatever you could find, eat,” Polk said. “But now, definitely more vegetables. I’ve got a meal plan with the strength coaches, working harder with the shakes and taking care of my body, taking my vitamins and doing what’s necessary.”

In his first season, Polk was active for seven games, but only played on special teams. Zero carries, zero receptions, zero offensive snaps for a player who averaged more than 22 touches per game during his final three seasons at Washington.

Asked what goals he has set for himself in 2013, Polk didn’t hesitate with his response.

“Play,” he said. “I don’t want to sit down no more. I didn’t come to this league to be a cheerleader, so I’ve just got to take care of my body. I just want to play.”

Chip Kelly’s offense is expected to rely on a heavy dose of the running game. Last year’s Oregon squad featured four different players who had at least 80 carries, and six different Ducks were credited with at least one rushing touchdown.

But Polk knows he has a difficult road ahead. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown atop the depth chart. They also signed Felix Jones and added undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker out of TCU.

Polk got an up-close look at Kelly’s offense in college. His Washington teams went 0-4 against Oregon and were outscored, 174-62. Polk averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in four games against the Ducks.

“They would run all over us,” he said. “We weren’t ever able to keep up with them.”

Even at the lighter weight, Polk is still probably the most physical running back on the roster. His strengths are versatility (pass protection, catching the football) and the ability to run over defenders. While Polk feels faster, he knows he’s not McCoy or Brown. And he doesn’t think he’ll have to change his style to fit into Kelly’s’ scheme.

“The most important thing about a running back is stay true to your identity,” Polk said. “If you’re a ground and pound guy or a real shifty guy, you can’t try to run like someone else because doing what you do is what got you here. Doing what you do is what’s going to keep you here.”

Because of a shoulder injury, Polk went undrafted last year. But the Eagles signed him as a free agent, and Polk impressed the coaching staff during training camp and the preseason. He said he didn’t have any shoulder procedures in the offseason and is still confident he can play with the injury.

When Polk got a phone call from running backs coach Duce Staley last summer, he thought he was getting cut. But instead, Staley congratulated him on making the team. This year, he’s hoping not only to stick, but to get on the field.

“It’s very exciting to have an offense that features the running back, being that we run this high pace,” Polk said. “We’re going to have to rotate in guys because we can run like six plays in less than a minute. So I’m just really excited to put on the pads and see how this year ends up.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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