By Al Thompson
Last year at this time, when offseason workouts had commenced, the Eagles were going about their business of trying to defend their remarkable Super Bowl run and championship. No one expected to see Carson Wentz on the field. He was dealing with a severely injured knee suffered toward the end of the 2017 regular season.
But there he was, photo bombing, at least it seemed, every interview on the field after every OTA session, minicamp practice and training camp session. The 25-year-old wanted everyone to see he was going to work his way back to health and make medical history. The effort eventually backfired.
The Birds’ franchise quarterback had been hurt Week 14 (Dec. 10) and missed the final three regular season games and the playoffs. The Eagles were able to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history with their backup quarterback, Nick Foles.
Wentz was certainly a big part of the Eagles’ success that year, leading the Birds to an 11-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
But Wentz was not the Super Bowl MVP, Foles was.
It was understandable that in 2018, Wentz would have a burning desire to mend his damaged knee in record time so he could be under center at the start of the regular season. He wanted badly to get back his team.
Wentz almost pulled it off. He missed the first two games. With Foles under center again, the Eagles started the season with a 1-1 record.
Wentz came back Week 3 and led the Eagles to a 20-16 win.
But something was missing with Wentz. He was able to throw the ball accurately, but the explosive part of his game, the part that had him the frontrunner for league MVP the year before, was missing. He was not passing the eye test.
The Eagles struggled to a 6-7 record. After dropping a 29-23 overtime decision to the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9, it was revealed Wentz was suffering from a broken back and was out for the season…again
Foles stepped in once more, and in dramatic fashion, led the Eagles to a second consecutive playoff appearance and a wild card playoff win over the Chicago Bears.
Head coach Doug Pederson said the back injury to Wentz was something that had “evolved” over the offseason and through the regular season.
In other words, the injury was self-inflicted.
This offseason, it appears, Wentz and the Eagles are not making the same mistake twice.
One Eagles insider, Dave Spadaro, last week cautioned that fans should not expect to see much of Wentz during OTAs and maybe even mini-camp.
During an interview in March, Wentz revealed his back was not 100 percent yet. The quarterback and the training staff are going to take their time with this and not rush to get him back. Wentz and the Eagles are about to enter into a long-term agreement, and there is just too much at stake.
When Pederson took to the podium to open rookie mini-camp, he was determined not to establish a timeline for Wentz.
When asked what has been Wentz’s involvement so far in the offseason, Pederson simple replied, “His involvement? Not going to get too specific or detail a lot of the things, but he’s been working. I’m encouraged by his progress and where he is at, and just looking forward to the next few weeks with him.”
Pederson was asked a followup question about whether or not Wentz would be taking part in the upcoming OTAs, he said, “How does that pertain to rookie minicamp?”
It’s all about Carson, right?
Pederson: “No. It’s about the rookies that are in this weekend.”
Pederson was asked if Wentz is going to be on the field during rookie minicamp that weekend.
“Not right now,” Pederson said. “Not until we get to that point. He’s on the field right now in phase two, so, yeah.”
But it’s a different type of practice, different type of workout than OTAs, right?
“Yeah,” Pederson said. “We will address it when we get to OTAs.”
Pederson and the Eagles are determined not to put pressure on Wentz to set a deadline. So Pederson deflects any questions about Wentz and his health.
In that March interview Wentz was honest about what was going on.
“It’s still getting there,” he said when asked if the bone in his back was fully healed. “Some of this stuff just takes time. That’s not really the main concern. It’s kind of how I feel. I feel pretty good with where I’m at. There no timetable, no rush.”
That is a big change from last year where, when you talked to Wentz, it seemed like he was in a race.
There are reports out there the Eagles are about sign their quarterback to a landmark deal.
There are Super Bowls out there to win, records out there to break. This time, Wentz will be ready when he is ready and not a minute sooner. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii