No one outside Darren Sproles' immediate family felt the pain of Sproles' torn knee ligament, broken radius, and injured wrist ligaments last Sunday more than Dave Fipp.
Fipp is the Eagles' special teams coach, and Sproles, 34, has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons as a returner. But Sproles' 2017 seaason is over, as the Eagles travel to play the Chargers, the team that drafted Sproles in 2005, in the fourth round, from Kansas State.
"We're going to miss Darren. There's no way you could ever replace him," Fipp said this week. "But we certainly feel good about the 11 guys that are going to jog out there on Sunday."
Kenjon Barner, the ex-Eagle signed to take Sproles' roster spot, probably will return punts against the Chargers, with Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement again back for kickoffs.
Fipp expects his unit to perform to its usual high standard.
"Coaches in this league that are worth a lick, and players – in order to be worth a lick in this league — you have to be able to overcome adversity," Fipp said. "We talk about that a lot in our room. In order to be successful in life, you have to be able to overcome adversity. The great people in life, the great people on the football field are those people who can overcome adversity, and no matter what life throws their way, they find a way to the job done."
Fipp doesn't expect Barner (or Torrey Smith, who returned punts last week after Sproles went down) to be Sproles, but he expects all his returners to secure the ball and "make good decisions" – catch the punt when they need to catch it, let it go when that's the better option, and "get positive yards."
Barner was a Charger in training camp and released just before the season. He said Los Angeles has "very aggressive" coverage units that are well-coached.
Barner said notions that the game will be vastly different in the 27,000-seat StubHub Arena, the Chargers' temporary home, are overblown.
"It's a stadium, at the end of the day," Barner said.