PHILADELPHIA -- At first, J.R. Reed believed the doctors when he was told his football career was over.
Then he proved them wrong.
Two years after a freak injury cast serious doubt on his future, Reed is back with the Philadelphia Eagles. He'll likely be returning kickoffs in the season opener at Green Bay on Sunday.
A fourth-round pick in 2004, Reed had a promising rookie season, averaging 23.1 yards per return with a long of 66.
But soon after playing in the Super Bowl, Reed got hurt in a bizarre accident. He cut the back of his knee while jumping over a fence and damaged a nerve that affects the use of his lower leg and foot.
"They expected me to never play again," Reed said. "I believed them for the first month. And after that, I kept working. It was a long journey back trying to prove to everybody that I'm healthy."
Reed sat out the entire 2005 season and went back to college to work on his degree. He spent training camp with the Eagles last year, but was among the final cuts.
From there, Reed went to St. Louis, Atlanta and most recently spent eight days with New York. Reed played six games with the Rams, returning 17 kickoffs for an average of 20.4 yards.
"It's been a roller coaster," he said. "I've been everywhere and back. It's hard to get motivated somewhere where you're always in question and they don't know what you can do and you're always on the bubble. It's more mental than physical."
Reed no longer has to wear a brace that goes all the way up his leg. He uses one similar to an ankle brace and doesn't feel it affects his running.
"The injury is not an issue. I'm healthy," he said.
If Reed can return to his rookie form, he'll bolster the Eagles' return game and provide depth in the secondary as an extra safety. Philadelphia was hoping Jeremy Bloom could be a game-breaking returner, but the former Olympic skier didn't have a strong preseason after spending his rookie year on injured reserve.
Wide receiver Greg Lewis will enter the season as the team's punt returner, though it's possible Reed could end up filling that role.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press