Carson Wentz has a fractured vertebra, revealed after the Eagles' quarterback underwent a series of tests this week, NFL sources said Thursday.
The team declined to confirm the report and didn’t release an official statement.
The fracture will fully heal if given sufficient time, the source said. Wentz suffered a back problem in October, but it was unclear whether that injury was related to the latest diagnosis.
The Eagles have yet to rule Wentz out for Sunday night’s game against the Rams in Los Angeles, but he didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday and is unlikely to play, based on the recent development. Backup Nick Foles has practiced with the first team and likely will start for the first time since Week 2.
The Eagles are still determining whether Wentz can play with the injury, the source said. The third-year quarterback was at the start of Thursday’s workout and did some jogging. The 6-7 Eagles, who still have a shot at a playoff spot, have games against the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins after the Rams.
Wentz underwent a CT scan on Wednesday and an MRI on Thursday, NFL sources said. The Eagles had their quarterback scanned at various times after he first experienced soreness in October, but nothing showed up until now. A fracture, especially when it’s small enough, can be difficult to detect with just scans. But Wentz apparently has been playing with the injury for some time.
“I know enough about Carson, obviously, to know that he’ll play through anything," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "Tough guy. We knew he was dealing with something, obviously.”
The 25-year-old quarterback has not been available to reporters since coach Doug Pederson announced that Wentz would miss Wednesday’s practice with a back injury. Pederson said the injury didn’t occur in Sunday’s loss in Dallas and wasn’t “game-related.” He said it was something Wentz had “dealt with.”
“Sometimes, he just gets a little sore, a little tight,” Pederson said.
Wentz missed the first two games of the season as he recovered from a season-ending knee injury last December. His name first popped up on the injury report on Oct. 17, before his fifth game, against the Carolina Panthers, and again a week later, before the Jacksonville Jaguars game in London. He was listed as limited both times, but he was a full participant the rest of those weeks and played the games seemingly without incident.
A back specialist was flown in from Los Angeles that month to treat Wentz and several other players, sources said.
Wentz is expected to seek medical advice outside the Eagles' medical staff, sources said. While that isn’t abnormal, many Eagles players this season have gone outside the NovaCare Complex, rather than work with the team’s new medical staff, headed by physician Stephen Stache and orthopedic surgeon Christopher Dodson. Stache and Dodson were hired in the offseason; they also oversee the 76ers.
The Eagles have already placed 13 players on injured reserve this season — tight end Richard Rodgers came off on a short-term designation last month. They have also had a number of injuries peculiar in their handling and recovery, particularly of the soft-tissue kind. Running back Darren Sproles, for instance, suffered two setbacks with a hamstring strain and missed 11 games. Cornerback Sidney Jones also has dealt with multiple hamstring strains.
After running back Corey Clement and defensive end Josh Sweat were ruled out for the season on Wednesday, Pederson was asked whether he felt snakebitten by injuries.
“It would seem that way,” Pederson said. “It’s a lot of guys.”
Wentz has had four significant injuries in four years. In his senior season at North Dakota State, he missed eight games with a broken wrist. He fractured ribs in his first NFL preseason game and missed the rest of the preseason, but he returned for the season opener and played all 16 games.
Last season, he tore ACL and LCL ligaments in his left knee in Los Angeles against the Rams and was done for the season. The Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl with Foles at the controls.
Wentz has spoken candidly about how difficult it was to watch the team win without him. He attacked his rehab and set Game 1 as his goal. But he fell short and didn’t play until Week 3. He appeared to be his old, dynamic self in his debut, and ran 12 times for 58 yards in the four games before he landed on the injury report. But, in the next seven games, he has run only 22 times for 35 yards.
“I know he’s been good,” Pederson said about Wentz’s mobility. “He’s going into the game, he’s got a lot of energy, a lot of juice, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. The lanes don’t open up the way the pass rush is coming.”
But Wentz has struggled as a passer in recent weeks, even though, overall, his rating is higher than it was last season, when he was an MVP candidate.
“He was even playing at a high level with what he was dealing with,” Matthews said. "Going through reads, it helps to have a healthy back. But he was still going out there and producing at a high level with the injury.”
Foles will have a week of practice to work off any rust. He has historically needed a few games to get into a rhythm as a starter, but when he’s gotten hot -- as he did during last season’s playoff run -- he’s gotten very hot.
“Nick’s Super Bowl MVP,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We’ll be alright.”