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Earl Wolff looks back at Saints, ahead to 2014
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All last week, Earl Wolff said he expected to play against the Saints, even though he didn’t practice on the two most important practice days of the week, even though he was still dealing with a knee injury.

When he was active Saturday night, it seemed like Wolff would be out there to help the team in its first postseason game since 2010.

Apparently, the coaches weren’t convinced he could make an impact. Although he was among the active 46, the rookie safety never sniffed the field and the Eagles lost, 26-24, in their first-round playoff matchup.

On Monday, while cleaning out his locker, Wolff said he wasn’t 100 percent confident in the right knee that had forced him to miss five of the prior six games leading up to the team’s first-round playoff game against New Orleans.

“I just couldn’t play my game, man,” Wolff said. “I play fast. I felt like if I would have gone out there playing, I would have been thinking, and it probably would have altered my game.”

Wolff seemed to suggest the decision was his. But he had said all week that he planned to play.

After the game, defensive coordinator Billy Davis said Wolff was an emergency fill-in. The Eagles had four other active safeties, which is their usual number of active safeties on game day, but Colt Anderson had missed the prior two games with a knee injury, essentially leaving the Eagles with three fully healthy safeties.
 
Wolff didn’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday and only participated in Thursday’s walkthrough and Friday’s jogthrough, so he didn’t get any first-team reps to prepare for New Orleans. Patrick Chung started again and struggled again.

Still unclear is whether the ultimate decision to keep Wolff sidelined was made by him, the coaches or the medical staff.

Wolff added that, after praying on it, the decision to be withheld was “God’s will.”

“I know [the team] wanted me me back,” he said. “I wanted to be back, my teammates wanted me back, just to help. Even if it’s 10 plays, just to help. That could possibly be a big-time play I could make.”

Another Chung coverage breakdown played a major role in the Saints' scoring their first playoff road win in team history. After an Alex Henery field goal cut the New Orleans lead to 20-17 in the fourth, Chung got beaten by Robert Meachem on a 40-yard pass to the Eagles’ 23-yard line, which set up Shayne Graham’s 35-yard field goal that rebuilt the lead to six.

Wolff, a product of N.C. State, never missed a game in his college career. He said he partially tore his rotator cuff in the second game of his sophomore season and played through it. He'd dealt with a sprained ankle that may have forced him out of some practices, but never any games.

“I just never allowed it to hold me back,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit out practices because I didn’t want to miss practices. I definitely didn't want to miss games. That’s my mindset, because I love the game so much.”

In his first pro season, Wolff missed four games after injuring his knee against Green Bay on Nov. 10. He returned for a Dec. 22 game against Chicago but left after four snaps when he came down hard on his knee.

He said the knee injury prevented him from being an impact player, even more than the shoulder injury he suffered in college.

“I play with speed. I like to move around a lot,” he said. “I like to get to the ball. From a shoulder standpoint, I still can run around, I still can do stuff. I might not be able to deliver the big hit but I can still wrap up tackles.

“When it comes to a knee injury, it’s a different thing, especially in this league. To me, especially playing defensive back, you’ve got to be able to move around. You’ve got to make plays. You’ve got to be confident in everything you’re doing.”

On the flip side, Wolff said he’s confident he will enter 2014 in line to start at one of the safety spots and build off his rookie success. Despite being a fifth-round pick and buried behind four safeties on the depth chart last spring, he impressed the coaches with his quick grasp of the playbook.

When Chung injured his shoulder in Week 3, Wolff stepped into the starting job and held it down even when Chung returned.

“I felt like I did pretty good, honestly,” he said. “I felt like I was getting better and better every game, starting to make more plays, getting comfortable out there, flying around, having fun. That’s what it’s all about

“That’s why I’ve always loved the game of football. I bring energy. I feed off my teammates. I like making plays.”