On Tuesday, Oct. 9, Carson Wentz popped up on the Eagles' injury report, listed as “limited” because he needed “rest.” He landed on the report again on Wednesday, Oct. 17, again “limited,” this time with a “back” problem, and received the same listing the following Wednesday.
The listings seemed innocuous. After all, he’d played three games by Oct. 7. He’d been limited in training camp because of a knee injury suffered the previous December. On Oct. 9, he was only two days removed from playing, with another game on Oct. 11 — a short-week, a Thursday Night Football appearance. If he needed rest, that made sense. He was not “limited” later in those weeks; he returned to full participation in practice.
On Wednesday, Doug Pederson began his weekly press conference by listing injuries, which was unusual for the head coach, who volunteers information like a prisoner of war.
The reason Pederson changed protocol is obvious now: He wanted to minimize alarm when Wentz didn’t practice that day. That plan failed. Within an hour, NFL.com, the league website, reported that Wentz’s ongoing back problem — which doctors repeatedly examined the last two months — might now cost him the season. Thursday, reports surfaced that he has a fractured vertebra. The initial diagnosis did not involve surgery, but sources said he will seek outside medical advice hereon out.
Who can blame him?
With a rash of lingering ailments, a boatload of soft-tissue injuries, and a number of disturbing incidents in the season’s first 14 weeks, Eagles players should be looking askance at the Eagles' rebuilt medical staff. Wentz’s injury is just the latest alarming development surrounding the Eagles' revamped staff.
Its reconstruction was an odd process.
About two weeks after the team won Super Bowl LII, head athletic trainer Chris Peduzzi left the team after 19 years, under strange circumstances. Officially, he resigned, but one league source said he was forced out. Peduzzi issued a stock statement but has declined to comment further.
Incredibly, Peduzzi was not officially replaced until June, by former Tennessee Titans assistant Jerome Reid; this, despite several major, ongoing injury crises, chief among them Wentz’s reconstructed knee, Alshon Jeffery’s rebuilt rotator cuff, and Brandon Graham’s ankle, which ultimately needed surgery.
Graham finally got his operation on May 1. About a month and a half later, the Eagles fired the head physician, Peter DeLuca of the Rothman Institute, and internist Gary Dorshimer of Pennsylvania Hospital - both 20-year team docs. The Eagles then tweaked their doctor roster.
They hired Rothman internist Stephen Stache as head team physician and promoted Rothman orthopedic surgeon Christopher Dodson, formerly an assistant team physician, to be head orthopedic physician. Only Stache and Jeremy Close, however, are completely new to the team’s seven staff physicians. That includes 15-year Rothman spine specialist Alexander Vaccaro, now the longest-tenured medical staffer.
So, no; not exactly an overhaul.
It’s dangerous, and perhaps irresponsible, to question the acumen and performance of the Eagles' medical staff over the last few years. Football is a violent game, players are incredibly tough, medicine is hard, and, with only 16 games per season, decisions about whether to play with an injury often pose uncomfortable dilemmas for players, coaches, and doctors.
Misdiagnoses happen. Wrong decisions are made. Players usually stay quiet.
Not Jordan Matthews. In March, he told a Buffalo radio station that his knee and ankle injuries had been misdiagnosed by the Eagles before they traded him to the Bills in the summer of 2017 (he has since returned).
And not former Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho, now an ESPN analyst, who took to Twitter on Thursday and claimed the Eagles routinely diminished players' injuries to keep them on the field.
Notably, Acho hasn’t been an Eagle since he left the NFL in November 2015, but, just as notably, at least a dozen current players played with Acho.
We asked Acho on Thursday whether he still communicates with those players, and whether they have complaints about the current medical staff. He also is the brother of Sam Acho, a linebacker with the Bears. Emmanuel Acho declined to comment.
So did team owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman, who oversee the medical staffing. The team did not make available Stache, Dodson, Vaccaro, or Reid, the new trainer.
Little wonder. They would have to answer questions about the hamstrings that have kept Darren Sproles and Sidney Jones in and out of the lineup; the issues that cost Mack Hollins the entire season; or the fact that No. 1 running back Jay Ajayi was allowed to return to the Vikings game in Week 5 after he tore his ACL.
And, of course, they would have to explain how they might have missed a broken back suffered by the most important player in franchise history.