When last we heard from Eagles coach Doug Pederson, at the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month, he got so ticked off there was almost steam coming straight up out of his visor, a virtual halo of frustration at the questions he was fielding.
Incredibly enough, the first question – and the second, third, fourth, and probably fifth – were not about whether he thought Sua Opeta could crack the guard rotation this season. And it wasn’t whether Anthony Rush actually can, or why the team waived a cornerback named Mercy Maston, thus ending the awesome possibility of a “Have Mercy!” bumper sticker promotion.
You’re probably not going to believe this, but the good folks of the media, your representatives by proxy, wanted to know about Carson Wentz and the timetable for becoming your superstar franchise quarterback.
“How does that pertain to rookie mini-camp?” Pederson said, apparently under the impression that some invisible force field would keep questions to the subject at hand, even if the subject at hand was about as interesting as a wheat index.
Carson Wentz, however, is always of interest, and so Pederson was peppered with questions about the fracture in the quarterback’s vertebrae that ended his 2018 season after having played just 11 games. Was the fracture healed? Would Wentz be ready – oh, my, what if he’s not? – for the start of the voluntary OTAs? Is he behind schedule? Is he ahead of schedule? Is he trying to read a SEPTA schedule?
So many questions, and Pederson guarded the answers the way a Doberman guards a pork chop. He just wasn’t going to say anything about Wentz and the OTAs until they arrived.
Organized Team Activities begin Tuesday and Pederson will greet them at 10:45 a.m. by stepping to the podium in the auditorium of the NovaCare Complex. The first question will not be about Marken Michel.
The good news is that Pederson will be ready for the first Carson Wentz question and he’ll have some happy news to report, even though it won’t be very newsy since the organization already leaked the info to the NFL Network. The report from Ian Rapoport on Monday was that Wentz will take part in the 10 days of OTAs with no restrictions.
Of course, he’ll also take part with no pads, no contact, and no way to fail. That’s the beauty of being nearly four months away from the start of the regular season. If you look reasonably good in glorified passing drills, then what can go wrong?
In the case of Wentz, we have learned the answer is that a lot of things can go wrong between now and the end of December. The quarterback is entering his fourth season, and has played 16, 13 and 11 games. That’s a trend that needs to turn in the other direction this season.
There’s no reason to expect it won’t, however. Wentz is young, strong and motivated to put in the work to be healthy. The injuries that have dogged him in college and the pros are all unrelated. It isn’t like a Sam Bradford, who always has a knee injury or something. Dating back to college, Wentz has endured a wrist injury, a rib injury, the torn ACL and LCL, and then the fracture in his back. Aside from being injured, there’s no pattern there.
Pederson won’t have to get hot under the visor again until the real training camp in July and August. That’s when the questions will have traction, as Wentz’s repetitions are either unfettered or limited, and as his participation in preseason games is monitored and scrutinized.
At least the coach knows what to expect. He had a belly full of it last season, between Wentz returning slowly from knee surgery (not playing until the third game) and then trying to explain the back situation, which was termed a “spasm” when first acknowledged by the team in October.
“Was he 100 percent last year?” teammate Zach Ertz said recently as he defended his quarterback. “Absolutely not. The guy had a broken back early in the year. I don’t know if he knows exactly when it happened or whatnot. But he’s just trying to prove he can be the best QB he can be for this organization.”
That was interesting for those of us who followed the team’s twisting path of what it knew and when – the fracture was not disclosed until December – but Ertz later said he “overspoke,” which is apparently the linguistic equivalent to being overserved.
Regardless, the back was last season’s injury, even if it threatens to leak over into the storyline for the coming season. Pederson will have to deal with it, and probably more than he wants to. That’s kind of the way it goes.