The Eagles began practice Wednesday without opening the practice window for safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, which seems to indicate he won’t be available to play Sunday.
Gardner-Johnson went on Injured Reserve on Dec. 3 after suffering a lacerated kidney during the Eagles’ win over the Packers on Nov. 27.
After missing the minimum required four games – the Titans, Giants, Bears and Cowboys – Gardner-Johnson is now eligible to be activated. The Eagles face his former team, the Saints, at the Linc Sunday and will clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket and a 1st-round bye with a win.
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But as practice began at 1:45 p.m., the club had not announced a move to open Gardner-Johnson’s 21-day practice window. Opening his practice window would allow him to rejoin the team and give the Eagles 21 days to either activate him or keep him Injured Reserve, which would end his season.
Jordan Davis and Avonte Maddox were able to play the week they began practicing. Dallas Goedert had to wait an extra week. But opening the practice window at least shows that a player is nearing the point where he’s able to play.
With all previous players coming off IR, the Eagles opened their practice window before the Wednesday practice the week they returned to action.
By not opening CJGJ’s practice window, it remains unclear when he’ll be able to return. The Eagles finish the regular season against the Saints and Giants and would open the postseason the weekend of Jan. 14-16 if they are a wild-card team or Jan. 21-22 if they get the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
It is still conceivable – but not at all likely – they could open his practice window later this week and still get him back for the Saints game.
Despite missing the last four games, Gardner-Johnson shares the NFL interception lead with Seahawks rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen. His six INTs are most by an Eagles safety since Greg Jackson had six in 1994 and match the most since Terry Hoage had eight in 1988.
The Eagles acquired Gardner-Johnson from the Saints on Aug. 30. He’s in the final year of his four-year, $3.3 million rookie contract.
With Avonte Maddox now out indefinitely with a toe injury, the Eagles are missing two of their key defensive backs.
Undrafted rookie Reed Blankenship has been starting at safety in place of Gardner-Johnson, and Josiah Scott has been Maddox’s replacement.
If the Eagles got Gardner-Johnson back, they could move him into Maddox’s slot spot and keep Blankenship at safety. If not, they appear to have no real choice but to continue playing Scott, who has struggled much of the time he’s been out there.