It was time for the first snap in the first full-team drill of the first practice this offseason, and Carson Wentz played quarterback for the Eagles. He didn’t wear a brace on his left knee, a change from last season, while he recovered from a torn ACL. He was not limited by a stress fracture in his back that halted his 2018 campaign in December.
Wentz had full medical clearance from the training staff and no restrictions from coach Doug Pederson.
“I feel great, and as you guys saw today, there’s no limitations out there,” Wentz said Tuesday, after the Eagles’ first organized team activity. “I’m out there doing team drills, doing all that stuff, which seemed like it was awhile [ago] for me. I feel really good going forward, and I’m obviously cleared and ready to roll.”
Neither Wentz nor Pederson answered directly whether the fractured bone in his back has fully healed; Wentz said last month that it had not. Both repeated that there are no limitations for Wentz. Pederson said Wentz has been working with his teammates throughout the offseason program, and Wentz said he’s been “throwing, running, moving around for quite a bit.”
“Just like any of our players that have gone through an injury, we’re going to continue to monitor them,” Pederson said. “But, as far as he’s concerned, there are no limitations on him.”
The most noticeable difference with Wentz was his bare left knee. He wore the brace last season to stabilize the surgically repaired knee, but he’s more than 17 months past that injury. Wentz said it “felt great to get that thing off,” and he went through his footwork drills without hesitation.
The brace was a sign of the injury last season, even while Wentz tried to move past it. Now, there’s no evidence of the torn ACL, other than his scar and statistics.
“Ultimately, it was my decision,” Wentz said of shedding the brace. “But, talking through it with everybody, we just felt it was best going forward. Knee felt good, feels strong, and I feel better without it.”
Although he would not divulge the specifics, Wentz said “a lot of work” went into rehabbing his body to ensure he would be a full participant when OTAs started. Wentz committed himself this offseason to “transforming” his body, paying close attention to nutrition, diet, and sleep. He has seen development in that area and changed parts of his training regimen.
It’s a departure from a year ago, when he was limited throughout the spring and for much of training camp. He missed the preseason and the first two games of the regular season. Even when he returned, he did not look himself at times. Then, he injured his back, with the team eventually shutting him down late in the season.
Pederson said Wentz’s participation is important even though these practices pale compared to training camp or the regular season. The Eagles are installing offensive and defensive systems and introducing their personnel. It helps to have the starting quarterback on the field. Wentz said it was not a perfect practice for football execution, but his arm and body felt strong.
There’s no way of measuring the value of spring workouts, and a practice in May doesn’t necessarily lead to a victory in December, but Wentz insisted there will be a benefit being with his teammates instead of focused on his rehab.
“I love any time we can get on the field,” Wentz said. “Start building that chemistry, start talking through things with guys so they see it how I see it, and vice versa. Anytime we can get out there, I love it. Missing some of that time last year was a bummer. I wouldn’t say it’s the ‘end all, be all,’ but it definitely is helpful – especially this year, with a couple new faces in there. I think you’ll see dividends come the fall.”
Wentz was the first-team quarterback during the 100-minute practice session. He participated in everything from position drills and seven-on-sevens to full-team work, giving way to the reserve quarterbacks when the first-teamers were off the field. He displayed his footwork and mobility without issue, moving and planting whether it was on deep drops or keeping the ball.
He tried to keep the session “business as usual" before admitting he might have been excited because of his long wait. He also acknowledged that there might be times to pull back – he hasn’t needed to do it yet – even though that’s against the nature of a North Dakotan whose impulse is to “work, work, work, push, push, push.”
“I’ve learned a lot through these processes to not be my own worst enemy, listen to advice throughout the way,” Wentz said. “I feel good with where I’m at.”
One restriction he apparently has accepted: Wentz will not play in his AO1 Foundation charity softball game next week at Citizens Bank Park. Wentz will coach his teammates instead.
There will be other times to show off his baseball swing. Eagles management has expressed its desire to sign Wentz to a long-term contract, which seems to be a matter of when, not if – especially now that he is healthy. Wentz would not comment on whether there’s been any progress to reaching a pact, but he’s interested in remaining Philadelphia’s quarterback for a long time and participating on the first day of offseason practices.