Earl Wolff, Chip Kelly And the Knee
Earl Wolff still experiences pain in his right knee. He said it only hits when he makes certain movements and it’s “nothing crazy,” but it’s there and serves as a signal that he is not all the way back.
The third-year safety out of N.C. State acknowledged that he expected to be full-go by this point. Still, Wolff says he has been making big strides lately and feels quite confident that he’ll be back to his old self by training camp.
“At the end of the day, man, my thing is all about being healthy, come back being 100 percent for the first time in a long time,” said Wolff, who participated in individual drills for the first time Tuesday. “Dr. [James] Andrews said sometimes it takes six months, sometimes it takes eight months, you never know. He said the main thing is make sure I’m taking care of myself, make sure I’m doing the things he gave me. He basically gave me a protocol. I’ve been doing everything I can do, just going through that right now.”
Judging by his comments Tuesday, Chip Kelly doesn’t seem to share the belief that Wolff has been showing signs of progress. In fact, he said there’s been “no progress” adding that “Earl has done nothing except stretch.”
“He’s been cleared from Dr. Andrews a couple weeks ago, but it’s what he can tolerate.”
Coach and player do not seem to be totally on the same page here. Wolff said he was cleared by Dr. Andrews, but “When he said cleared, it wasn’t like I’m cleared to go 100 percent,” he explained. “Basically he said, ‘Earl, what I tried to get done was done so now you can push yourself because the procedure I tried to get done was basically fulfilled so now you can go out and now you can go out and really progress and really push yourself.’ It wasn’t like I’m cleared to go 100 percent out there in practice. No, it wasn’t one of those clears.”
This isn’t the first time that Wolff and the organization have had difficulty synching up when it comes to this injury.
Towards the end of his rookie season, there were rumblings that the safety had been cleared for return by the Eagles’ medical staff but decided to hold himself out.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was that. It might have been something similar to that,” Wolff said at the time. “And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to play, I just felt like if I would have went out there, I wouldn’t have been able to play my game. I would have been thinking about it. Not to say that I would’ve messed something up — I trust them in the training room — but just to a point to where I just wouldn’t have been able to play my game and make the plays that I can make, and I could have possibly hurt our defense more than helped.”
During training camp last year, there appeared to be at least one occasion where Kelly was expecting Wolff at full-go based on his conversations with the trainers but didn’t get what he was looking for.
Some on the outside believe that Wolff has been too conservative in his approach to this knee injury. But it’s tricky business to make judgment calls when it comes to somebody else’s body. And it’s not like the ailment is a figment of Wolff’s imagination: he underwent microfracture surgery in November because of cartilage deterioration in the knee, which caused bone to rub on bone.
The surgery was apparently a success, some cartilage has been re-grown and if all goes well, he’ll return to health for the first time since his rookie season. But he’s not totally healthy now, and it seems fair to wonder whether this staff is growing a little thin on patience. Is Wolff worried about his standing on the team?
“Honestly, nah, because once camp starts I’ll be 100 percent and I feel sky is the limit for me,” he said. “Especially with what I know now from Coach Cory [Undlin] and as much film as I watched with Malcolm [Jenkins] this offseason, I know I’m going to be a great player.”