Somehow, nearly 27 months have passed since Super Bowl LII. Nothing brings that fact into sharper focus than listening to Corey Clement talk about agreeing to a one-year contract with the Eagles and embracing the chance “as if it’s my last.”
It could be just that. Clement is still only 25 years old, but he has suffered serious knee and shoulder injuries since catching four passes for 100 yards in the franchise’s lone Super Bowl victory, including a spectacular back-of-the-end-zone touchdown and a 55-yard catch-and-run.
Even when Clement has been healthy the past two seasons, he has seemed to lack the spark that propelled him into a prominent role as an undrafted rookie running back from South Jersey via Wisconsin. Clement was set to be a restricted free agent this spring, but he became unrestricted when the Eagles declined to make a tender offer.
“I want to be here. I want to retire here one day. This team means a lot me,” Clement said Thursday, in a video conference with reporters. “When I first found out the news that they weren’t going to tender me, I took it to heart a little bit, because Philly is home to me. I love the city with everything; if I could bleed green, I would.
“When it comes to a time where it’s business, I understand, but now I can only look forward, because I’m back being an Eagle.”
Clement saw action in only four games last season and did not carry the ball from scrimmage. He was brought back after the Eagles made 10 selections in last weekend’s NFL draft without picking a running back, though they added a couple of undrafted rookies at that position – Cincinnati’s Michael Warren and Central Florida’s Adrian Killins.
Miles Sanders and Boston Scott are the incumbents, joined by late-season addition Elijah Holyfield. Though Clement said he instructed his agent to “make sure this happens,” it isn’t clear the Eagles would have brought back Clement had they drafted any runnng backs.
Clement said it’s been “a roller coaster” of a career. Two years ago, in the afterglow of his Super Bowl fame, Clement was chosen to give the commencement address at Rowan University, in his hometown of Glassboro, Gloucester County.
“I haven’t had the best two years that I’ve wanted, due to injury,” he said.
His college career followed a somewhat similar trajectory, not so much with injuries, but with early success hinting at stardom that never quite arrived. There were whispers after the 2017 draft that he wasn’t selected because the Wisconsin coaching staff did not give him a glowing recommendation. Eagles security chief Dom DiSandro had known Clement since Clement’s childhood, and DiSandro vouched for his character.
Clement said he is doing everything he can with workouts and diet to ensure better health. He said his shoulder has been fully healed for about a month, and he was cleared two weeks ago by Dr. Christopher Dodson, the Eagles’ orthopedist.
“I’m coming in as a guy who has got the rookie mindset again,” he said.
Asked one more time about Super Bowl memories, Clement said that when he hauled in his touchdown, he thought of Santonio Holmes’ spectacular, game-winning touchdown grab for the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
“His toe-drag was definitely awesome. I don’t know how he got that,” Clement said. “That went all through my mind. I’m like, ‘Whoa. Did I just do that?’ “
At the time, it wasn’t clear that Clement’s TD would stand. On the TV broadcast, Cris Collinsworth didn’t think it was a catch, since Clement shifted hands on the ball. This proved not to be relevant. After the game, Clement said that during an endless series of replays, he was thinking, “Please don’t take this from me, because you never know when those moments are going to come back.”
Those thoughts seem profound two years later.
Clement also was the player who took the snap on the famous “Philly Special” touchdown play right before halftime, pitching to tight end Trey Burton, who hit quarterback Nick Foles for the TD. Burton (Indianapolis) and Foles (Chicago) are on their second teams since leaving the Eagles.
Clement said one of the reasons he was intent on returning for another shot with the Eagles was running backs coach Duce Staley.
“I just love what Duce Staley brings to that offensive room, the running back room,” he said. “I can put my last cent on it – that room is just untouched when it comes to the grind. The awareness, the attention to detail. … That guy acts like he’s (still) playing the game, and that’s what I want as a coach.”
Warren and Killins are in the position Clement was in three years ago, trying to gain a foothold as undrafted free agents. Clement acknowledged he had an easier road; there was no pandemic. Clement had OTAs, minicamp, and a full training camp to learn the offense and show what he could do. He said he empathizes with this group.
It’s also true, though, that Clement’s knowledge of the offense could give him a boost toward a 2020 roster spot in this offseason of unknowns.
Part of Clement’s role might be providing veteran leadership. With Darren Sproles retired, Clement is the most-experienced player at his position. Clement said Sproles was an excellent role model.
“There’s always a time for fun and games, but when Sproles walked in that door, all games shut off,” Clement said.
In going over blitz pickup, Clement said that Sproles would ask, “ ‘Are you sure you know this? You can say you know it, but show me … if you think you know it, go back over it again. Because you really don’t know it.’ And that’s the same with Duce.”
Once everyone signs, the Eagles will need to trim two players from their roster to get to the 90-man limit. Matt Leo, the 27-year-old defensive end from Iowa State and Australia who was signed as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, doesn’t count toward the limit until the regular season.
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