PHILADELPHIA — A setback in his restoration from a hamstring harm saved Philadelphia Eagles operating again Darren Sproles out of his group’s first matchup with the New Orleans Saints, and he was scorching about it.
“We texted after they had been down there within the Dome after they bought blown out. He was pissed,” mentioned coach Todd Durkin of the Eagles’ 48-7 loss in New Orleans in Week 11. “It drove him nuts not enjoying.”
The Saints are Sproles’ previous group, so naturally there’s going to be some further emotion hooked up to a recreation like that. However to totally perceive why Sproles’ aggressive juices had been in overdrive, and why they’ll be effervescent over when the Eagles and Saints sq. off within the divisional spherical of the playoffs Sunday (four:40 p.m. ET), you will have to perceive his relationship with quarterback Drew Brees.
They’re good mates and longtime sparring companions who’ve been making an attempt to outduel one another for greater than a decade. Each offseason for the previous 11 years, Sproles and Brees have paired up at Health Quest 10 in San Diego for coaching classes which have grow to be the stuff of legend.
“Extraordinarily aggressive,” mentioned Eagles tight finish Zach Ertz.
“They’re fairly intense,” Sproles mentioned.
“These dudes, they compete prefer it’s the Tremendous Bowl each darn set,” added Durkin. “It’s loopy. It’s nice.”
It began with LaDainian Tomlinson, who was teammates with Brees and Sproles on the Chargers and the primary to work with Durkin within the early 2000s. Tomlinson soon satisfied Brees to be a part of him. Sproles, wanting to replicate Tomlinson’s success, adopted go well with a couple of years later when he got here on the scene. The group has grown over time and now contains Ertz and Eagles large receiver Golden Tate, however regardless of who’s within the health club, Brees and Sproles virtually all the time accomplice up.
The epic exercises that observe are a result of their like-mindedness. Each gamers are undersized in a recreation of giants, and they each made it by outworking everybody round them. Usually, that is been an attainable purpose for every of them. However what occurs when your counterpart is equally dedicated to the identical purpose?
“Darren doesn’t need to be outdone so he’ll do an additional treadmill dash. So then Drew will get on. So Darren will get on for an additional dash once more, and then Drew will get again on,” Durkin mentioned. “I’ve to like actually pull the plug and cease them from operating as a result of they’ll simply do 20 further sprints. The opposite guys, they’ll be achieved, and Drew and Darren, they’re jockeying.”
“I am unable to consider a time he is overwhelmed me. So return and ask him. Ask Darren, ‘What’s your report in opposition to Drew Brees within the Rebounder?’ … I might need misplaced one. So I am considering the report might be 95-1. No joke. Possibly.”
“The factor is that we don’t like dropping,” Sproles mentioned. “So we’re all the time making an attempt to one-up one another. That may be with a rep or an additional dash — that’s simply how it’s.”
When the exercise is over, the competition is simply warming up.
Durkin finishes his classes with video games for his athletes to check their hand-eye coordination and focus in an exhausted state. Essentially the most raucous one is named “Rebounder.” It is performed with a response ball, which is sort of a tennis ball with bumps throughout it. While you throw the ball onto this trampoline-like canvas, it takes unpredictable bounces. Working in an outlined 5-by-5-foot area, the gamers return and forth like pingpong. In case your opposition cannot catch it, you get some extent. First to 11 wins.
Brees, who beat Andy Roddick thrice as junior tennis gamers, wins about 90 p.c of the time, per Durkin. And everyone desires to take him down.
“He is so uber-aggressive. The man has virtually gotten into fights within the recreation arguing over factors as a result of he doesn’t need to lose,” Durkin mentioned. “It’s actually 15 guys in opposition to him and everybody’s making an attempt to get him out.”
“Nah, Drew cheats,” Ertz mentioned with a smile when requested about Brees’ prowess. “Drew cheats.”
A reporter tried to get Brees’ goat by asking if it is true Sproles has his quantity in Rebounder.
“By no means,” he instantly replied. “I can’t consider a time he’s overwhelmed me. So return and ask him. Ask Darren, ‘What’s your report in opposition to Drew Brees within the Rebounder?’ … I might need misplaced one. So I’m considering the report might be 95-1. No joke. Possibly.”
Sproles laughed a full-belly giggle when the message was relayed.
“Hey, we’ll be having some good battles,” he mentioned. “However the factor is, the final time we performed, I won, so I’m the champ proper now.”
There may be video proof of that Sproles win, so we all know he has not less than one beneath his belt.
By all accounts, the tempo and depth of Durkin’s exercises elevate considerably when Brees and Sproles are within the pack. Brees is in his 18th season and turns 40 on Tuesday. Sproles is in his 14th season and is 35. But Durkin continues to push the tempo on these world-class athletes for 3 hours a day and upward of 5 days every week in the course of the offseason.
“When you will have two nice gamers like that, the work ethic goes to stand out,” Ertz mentioned. “You don’t grow to be the gamers that these two have being ‘Common Joe’s’ coaching. These two embody the work ethic mentality that you really want to have, that you simply want to have so as to be an incredible participant on this league.”
Added Sproles: “We work fairly onerous within the offseason in order that we are able to final. I might say our summer season exercises have performed a giant half in [sustaining our careers].”
The 2 have grown very shut. The mutual respect is apparent when Brees and Sproles discuss one another.
“Yeah, he is my man, man. He’ll all the time be my man,” Brees mentioned. “He is a stud. One of many biggest teammates I’ve ever had the possibility to play with. I’ve mentioned it earlier than, I believe he is a as soon as-in-a-lifetime participant.
“And what he is been ready to accomplish now over the course of his profession, for the kind of participant he was, man, simply full velocity on a regular basis. That operating again place takes a beating and what he was ready to do on operating the soccer, catching the soccer, within the return recreation. I imply he is simply been the consummate teammate. I like working with him within the offseason. He makes me higher. An amazing pal. So I all the time root for him.”
However when it is time to compete, anticipate these acquainted instincts to take over.
“It was powerful,” Sproles mentioned of lacking the primary matchup with Brees and the Saints. “However I get an opportunity this week.”
Contributing: ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter Mike Triplett