By Kimberley A. Martin
Pro Football Writers of America
MINNEAPOLIS — This time there were no practice stoppages for the Philadelphia Eagles, just quick-tempo plays and plenty of players flying around.
Their second practice of Super Bowl week was more of “a situational day” that focused primarily on short-yardage, goal-line and third-down drills over an afternoon period that lasted almost one hour and 45 minutes.
Running back Jay Ajayi was a full practice participant Thursday, but was purposely limited in some team drills to give his lower body a rest. With Ajayi hampered by a sore ankle of late, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said the rest was just precautionary, adding: “He’ll be fine for the game.”
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (calf), cornerback Ronald Darby (illness) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) all practiced fully. However, starting defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (illness) again was absent. As of now, the plan is to keep him as hydrated as possible, but the expectation is that Jernigan will play Sunday against the Patriots, even if he’s unable to practice all week.
“Because of the position and he’s one of our veteran guys, I do feel comfortable that he’ll be ready,” Pederson said.
Defensive end Vinny Curry was briefly looked at by team trainers toward the end of practice after he got several fingers on his left hand caught in another player’s face mask during a team drill. But Pederson assured, “He’s fine. He shook it off. He’s good.”
The coach said his message during Wednesday’s team meeting centered on eliminating mistakes, especially “pre-snap stuff,” and staying focused. And the Eagles heeded his instruction. For the second straight day, quarterback Nick Foles was in a groove, firing off intermediate passes and deep balls downfield with confidence and ease. “Nick was really sharp again. Real sharp,” the coach said. “He was accurate with his passes, smart in the run game. And (backup) Nate (Sudfeld) just seems to sort of always impress. Every day he comes out here, he’s ready to work. I know it’s service team stuff, but he makes our defense work.”
Although Darby missed Thursday’s media availability, he and fellow cornerback Jalen Mills were relentless in coverage, chasing down receivers and batting down passes with gameday-level intensity. “They really focused in on their assignments,” Pederson said. “They’ve got a tough task with the Patriots, some of these small, quicker receivers. But they both had really good days today.”
All in all, it was the type of session Pederson expected to see with only three days until the biggest game of their season. “Had a heck of a practice today,” he said. “Guys were flying around. Definitely picked it up. We had three days off before we got on the field (Wednesday), so this is what typically we would see in practice.”
Along with NBC’s Super Bowl LII broadcast crew (Michelle Tafoya, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth), Pederson’s former head coach Mike Holmgren also was in attendance. Holmgren, who will contribute commentary on Westwood One radio throughout Sunday’s broadcast, won Super Bowl XXXI with Brett Favre as his starting quarterback and Pederson as his backup in Green Bay.
“I talked to him yesterday and I saw him at practice today. My old coach,” Pederson beamed. “It’s fun to have him out there.”