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August 14, 2015

Chip Kelly, not injury, is the reason DeMarco Murray hasn't been practicing much

But there's still no word on whether or not he'll suit up against the Colts

Eagles NFL
080315_Murray_AP Chris Szagola/AP

Eagles' DeMarco Murray practices as running backs coach Duce Staley looks on.

DeMarco Murray, the NFL's leading rusher a year ago, has been noticeably limited in his first training camp with the Eagles and no one really seemed to know why.

It started on the first day of camp when Murray was held out of team drills due to a failed hydration test. Then, he returned for a day before being sidelined with an illness. In the week-plus since, the 27-year-old running back has only practiced about half of the time, if that, and there were even days in which he was out on the field in a helmet and pads but didn't participate in any of the drills.

All along, Murray -- and the Eagles -- have insisted that he's healthy. So what's been keeping him from practicing?

As it turns out, it isn't a what, but rather a who.

"Me," Kelly said Friday when asked the reason behind Murray's limited practice reps.

"He’s coming along," the coach added. "He’s done a lot of different things. Trying to get his acclimated. He also carried the ball more than anybody in the NFL last year. We’re just trying to integrate him into what we’re doing."

The trouble then becomes balancing his workload with his need to get up to speed in a new offense. But for now, they seem willing to sacrifice the latter in order to keep him fresh.

“We look at everybody and where they are from a body standpoint," Kelly said. "And I think we manage every individual player here in terms of where they are and what they are. And my job — not just my job, but our entire coaching staff, training staff, sports science staff — is to get those guys ready to play in Week 1.”

On Wednesday, Murray spoke to the media following practice and said that he wasn't injured, but a day later, he was back "sitting" on the sidelines (thanks to a well-placed chair from safety Malcolm Jenkins). 

“Malcolm Jenkins is just busting people’s chops," Kelly said. "And I was laughing, because he asked me before he did it, ‘Can we get those guys some mojitos and maybe some fans?’ because they had a day off. But, again, every player is dealt with individually here, so what works for Player A may be different from Player B. And that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

So if we assume everyone is telling the truth and that he is indeed healthy, the only reason for Murray's lack of practice is that the team is trying to preserve him for when the games actually mean something. After all, the guy did have a league-high 497 touches in Dallas a year ago.

As far getting used to playing with a new quarterback and a new offensive line, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur thinks the team has seen enough from him, even with the limited number of practice reps, but the real test is still a few days away.

"Yeah, we certainly can get a lot done in practice, I think, no matter how much or how limited," Shurmur said earlier in the week. "I think it's important that we all play in the preseason games if we're able to, and I think you'll see that happen."

There was no update on whether or not Murray will be active on Sunday when the Eagles open the preseason against the Colts, but even if he is, don't expect to much from him. As Kelly noted, the starters typically get eight to 10 snaps in the first preseason, and with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles also likely to see some first-team action, he could see even less. 

Don't forget, LeSean McCoy only carried the ball a total of 11 times last year ... in all the preseason games combined.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin