Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin is expected to miss at least three weeks and possibly the entire preseason after an MRI on his injured calf showed a fairly serious muscle strain, a league source said Tuesday morning.
The source said Babin has a Grade 2 muscle strain, which means there’s a small tear in the muscle and some bleeding.
Babin, who got hurt during 1-on-1 drills at a training camp practice at Lehigh on Saturday afternoon, was unable to take his MRI until Monday because he hadn’t yet passed the thermometer that the players routinely swallow that measures their temperature during practice.
The source said the injury is a tricky one for a defensive end, because it’s located on the inside of his calf, and the muscle that’s injured is the one that he uses to push off when the ball is snapped.
Because of that, the Eagles have to be very cautious with Babin’s return or risk him re-injuring the muscle when he returns to action and resumes practicing. So there’s a good chance Babin won’t return to practice immediately after he’s cleared just to give the muscle some extra time to strengthen.
Muscle strains are graded from one to three, with three being the most serious. The source said Babin’s Grade 2 strain is “not a very bad Grade 2 strain.”
The source said there’s a chance Babin won’t be able to play in any of the preseason games. The third preseason game, Aug. 24 in Cleveland, is 24 days away, and the source said that would be a reach for Babin, although the Eagles haven’t ruled it out. The final preseason game is home against the Jets on Aug. 30, and the starters generally never play in the final preseason game.
The Eagles are just under six weeks out from the regular-season opener against the Browns back in Cleveland on Sept. 9.
Babin, who was a backup with the Eagles in 2009, had a 12 1/2-sack Pro Bowl season with the Titans in 2010 and returned to the Eagles a year ago this week, signing a five-year, $28.9 million deal.
Babin recorded a career-high 18 sacks last season in his return to the Eagles, third-most in franchise history and most since Clyde Simmons had 19 sacks in 1992. Only Simmons and Reggie White (21.0 in 1987) have had more sacks in a season for the Eagles than Babin.
In Babin’s absence, Brandon Graham, a first-round pick in 2010, has been getting increased reps with the first defense and has had a good camp so far. He’s the most likely starter in any games Babin is unable to play.
Defensive end is one position the Eagles have plenty of depth, with Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt and rookie Vinny Curry backing up Babin and Trent Cole.
The Eagles have a CBA-mandated day off from practice on Tuesday and return to action at Lehigh on Wednesday.