Starting tight end L.J. Smith, a key receiver in the Philadelphia Eagles' passing game, underwent surgery Friday to clean out scar tissue surrounding his injured groin. Smith will miss Sunday's game and the team said his rehabilitation will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
A fifth-year veteran, Smith underwent surgery in late May to repair a sports hernia and he missed much of the Eagles' offseason program.
Smith aggravated the groin injury in training camp, missed time again, and was bothered by it over the first two weeks of the season. This week, the team said in a Friday news release, the discomfort reached a point where Smith could not practice.
"He seemed like he was getting a little bit worse, so we referred him to Dr. [William] Meyers, who did the sports hernia surgery on him," Eagles head trainer Rick Burkholder said in the release. "It was a 20-minute procedure in which he opened up the sheath around the muscle, which gives him a little more room. It allowed fluid to drain out of the muscle that was injured in training camp."
In two games, Smith had only four catches for 26 yards -- and the Eagles felt the injury was definitely a factor in his lack of productivity.
Smith, 27, is one of the NFL's best receiving tight ends and an excellent fit for the West Coast-style offense that Philadelphia features. In the past two seasons, the former Rutgers player has 111 catches for 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns. Eagles coaches believe that, even in an offense that distributes the ball as evenly as their passing game does, Smith has 70- to 75-catch potential.
This season is critical for Smith because he is in the final year of his original rookie contract that carries a base salary of $920,000. Barring an extension, he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. There were some extension discussions between the team and Smith's agent, Brian Mackler, in the offseason, but the sides were unable to strike a deal.
A second-round choice in the 2003 draft, Smith has enough speed to split the safeties deep and is a solid route runner.
In four-plus seasons, the former Rutgers star has 176 receptions for 2,017 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has played in 65 games, with 46 starts.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.