As Rashaad Penny walked through the NovaCare Complex auditorium Thursday afternoon, he took some time to introduce himself and shake hands with the dozen or so reporters who attended his first press conference as an Eagle.
He is a new man after all.
Penny knows there’s nothing she can do to erase her history of injury, but she expects to move past it. He looks forward to being a different player and a different person in the next chapter of his career.
And he thinks Philly is the place for that.
“I feel like this is a great place to refresh and restart my career,” Penny said at his opening press conference Thursday. “I’m just excited to be here.”
Penny, 27, repeated this many times Thursday: Update, reboot.
That’s the biggest reason he decided to sign with the Eagles as a free agent. And after five injury-plagued seasons as a first-round pick in Seattle, Penny is ready to begin the next chapter of his career on the opposite coast.
“I think it’s really important,” he said. “I think this will rejuvenate my career, being here, just being an Eagle. I think this is a great opportunity for me.”
Because when someone talks about Penny’s career, the first thing they mention is her disability. He’s been an incredibly productive and efficient running back in the NFL, but he just hasn’t been available. After playing in 14 games his rookie season as a first-round pick out of San Diego State, Penny hasn’t played more than 10 in the past four seasons.
Since the start of the 2019 season, Penny has played in only 28 of a possible 65 games (43.1%) in the regular season. During his NFL career, Penny has had a broken finger, knee injuries including a torn ACL, hamstring injury, calf injury and broke his left tibia in Week 5 last season.
The good news is that Penny said on Thursday that he has recovered from last season’s fracture. So he is finally healthy as he begins this new chapter.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I know I feel like 17 games are really important to me. And I know for a fact that being here, being an Eagle, great strength and coaches, they all take care of the players here. I’m excited to be here. I expect big things.”
The Eagles might have expected big things, too… but they didn’t have to pay that way. Due to a long and troubling injury history, Penny’s one-year deal with the Eagles is low-risk, high-reward and includes just $0,000 in guaranteed money, according to NFL.com.
If he can stay healthy — and that’s obviously a giant if — this could end up being a steal.
Because Penny is very good. He has averaged 5.7 yards per carry during his NFL career and has averaged 6.3 and 6.1 over the past two seasons. He’s also incredibly explosive, has great vision and is heavy on contact, averaging 3.1 yards per touch over the past two seasons.
In his one game against the Eagles — a 17–9 Seahawks win in Philly in 2019 — Penny had 129 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. It’s one of seven 100-plus yard games in his career. Like we said, when this dude is healthy, he’s very good.
Despite the injuries, Penny has remained optimistic throughout a career that would leave many depressed. But he knows injuries are on everyone’s mind. Health is also a priority for him.
“I want to play 17 games. I want to be available,” he said. “I’m positive and I’m very excited to be here.”
Penny said she’s known running back coach Jemal Singleton for several years, but doesn’t seem to have many friends on the list. He said he’s ready for whatever role the Eagles give him. And he also said the Eagles’ system didn’t really factor into his decision.
Penny decided to join the Eagles because she sees this place as her starting point. And because he saw how impressive the Eagles were last season. He highlighted running room, talented pass catchers, an amazing offensive line and a quarterback who was in the running for the 2022 MVP.
By the way, Jalen Hurts has already contacted Penny.
“He’s ready to win a Super Bowl,” Penny said. “… I’m with him and I know the whole team is with him. I am excited about this opportunity.”
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