Carson Wentz missed practice on Wednesday because of a back injury that puts his status for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in peril, and the Eagles began preparing for the game with Nick Foles as their top quarterback.
There has not yet been an official decision about whether Wentz will play. The NFL Network reported that Wentz will likely miss Sunday’s game and might be shut down for the remainder of the season. Coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles would continue monitoring Wentz.
“Whether he plays this week, or whether he plays this rest of the year, he’s definitely doing everything he can to play,” said tight end Zach Ertz, one of Wentz’s closest friends on the team. “This year hasn’t gone the way we all thought it would – obviously, you want him to play each and every game – but I care about him as a person.”
Pederson labeled Wentz’s injury as “back soreness, a little tightness.” The injury did not occur in last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Rather, it’s been an injury that Wentz has dealt with throughout the season. Wentz showed up on the injury report when he was limited in an Oct. 10 practice because of “rest" before he was limited in sessions during the next two weeks because of a back injury. He has not missed any games in that time and his practice participation had been unaffected since the bye week before Pederson offered the update at the beginning of his Wednesday news conference. The team postponed Wentz’s news conference.
“We've monitored him since he tore his knee,” Pederson said. “We've been on him and monitoring him. Listen, every player is going to play with a little nagging injury from time to time. That's just the way it works in this business. The quarterback is no exception, obviously. So, we've monitored it and stayed on top of it and have had great communication with him.”
Ertz declined to discuss how the injury has affected Wentz this season and said Wentz wants to address reporters himself about the injury. Wentz wanted to play every game this season – he pushed to play Week 1 before the medical staff kept him out until Week 3 – so it’s unlikely Wentz will be pleased if he needs to miss Sunday’s game on the same field where his MVP campaign ended last year.
“It’s not lost on us, for sure,” Ertz said. “I don’t believe in coincidences, really, but it’s just the way it is. I wish Carson was out there each and every week. … It is weird that it is this way.”
Although no decision has been made, the Eagles proceeded on Wednesday as if Foles is their starting quarterback. In fact, before practice on Wednesday, the players called on Foles to lead the team huddle. The team is comfortable with Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP who started the first two games of the season. Nate Sudfeld is the only other quarterback on the roster.
“I just want everyone to know that everyone has full confidence in the guy,” Ertz said. “We’re not asking him to do too much. We’re just asking him to be himself. But at the same time, guys love playing for him. … I wanted him to know that everyone had his back. This is a family, this is a family team. We truly care for one another.”
Foles was not available for comment on Wednesday.
The injury was a surprise even to players in the locker room. Defensive end Brandon Graham went to practice and realized Foles was the quarterback. Across the country, Rams coach Sean McVay was surprised, too.
“Carson’s a great player – he’s played really good football, but as far as if he’s able to go or if he’s not, our preparation doesn’t change throughout the week,” McVay said. “You’re looking at if it’s Nick stepping in, we know he led [the Eagles] to a world championship, playing really good football – especially down the stretch. … Just as a coach and someone who’s a fan of the game, I hate to see [an injury] for someone like him who’s overcome some adversity.”
Wentz’s injury history has grown each season. He missed eight games at North Dakota State in 2015 because of a broken wrist. He missed three preseason games in 2016 because of a hairline fracture in his ribs. He tore an ACL last season, and now has the back injury this season.
Foles replaced Wentz in Los Angeles last season and led them on the Super Bowl run. With the Eagles at 6-7 and needing wins and help to reach the postseason, they might need to turn to Foles again.
“We’ve seen what Nick can do,” Graham said. “It’s going to be interesting, if that’s the case.”