The Eagles need Carson Wentz to play for the Colts in 2021 to maximize the return from the worst trade in Philadelphia history. That grows less likely every day that Carson “Personal Decision” Wentz isn’t fully vaccinated.
If the Colts reach the playoffs, then Wentz must take 70% of Indy’s offensive snaps to turn the second-round pick into a first-rounder. If the Colts miss the playoffs, then Wentz must take 75% of their snaps.
He can’t take any snaps if he’s on the COVID-19 list.
It’s as if Wentz, the greatest villain in the city’s extensive gallery of villains, just keeps twisting the knife in Philly’s back from 650 miles away.
First, an old foot injury sidelined him for most of Colts training camp. The injury required surgery with a recovery period of 5-12 weeks, and, to the dismay of Eagles fans and the front office, it looked like Wentz might be out until midseason. Then, a reprieve: Wentz returned to practice after just three weeks for light work. Heavier work was supposed to begin this week, and a Week 1 start was a possibility. At any rate, a prolonged absence seemed unlikely.
Then, a completely avoidable setback.
Wentz landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday as a close contact with someone who has tested positive. This means Wentz will miss at least five days, as long as he remains asymptomatic and continues to test negative. And this means five more days of idleness. Five days of missing rehab. Five days of non-preparation with a new coach and a new cast of teammates, which, in a best-case scenario, would give Wentz a week of practices next week, all of which makes a Week 1 start less likely.
For that matter, Wentz’s unvaccinated status puts the entire Colts season in jeopardy, and the Eagles’ hope of making the second-rounder a first.
Because there will be a next time.
Indianapolis seems to be something of a COVID-19 haven. An unnamed staffer tested positive this time, according to the NFL Network, and that put Wentz, receiver Zach Pascal, and center Ryan Kelly on the five-day list.
Only 75% of the team is vaccinated, according to head coach Frank Reich, which is one of the lowest rates in the NFL. Six players have been on the list, including Eric Fisher, who remains on it since testing positive last week. Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus tested positive earlier in camp. Both were vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccines aren’t foolproof, but unvaccinated people are five times more likely to be infected, according to a CDC study published last week.
If Wentz actually gets COVID-19, he’ll miss at least 10 days. That could be two games. So, a game here, a game there ... even with a 17th regular-season game on the 2021 schedule, missed time adds up.
We can draw the conclusion that Wentz is unvaccinated because NFL protocols mandate that only unvaccinated players are subject to close-contact quarantine. Also, when asked in July if he’d gotten the vaccine, Wentz replied, “It’s a personal decision.”
True ... but it’s an unconscionable personal decision, and one that’s bad for the NFL’s business.
As the Delta variant rages through the United States, thanks largely to America’s poor vaccination rates, there will undoubtedly be more outbreaks. The NFL announced in July that teams that suffer outbreaks among unvaccinated players might have to forfeit games. Teams with the most vaccinated players will have a distinct advantage.
And, unvaccinated players will be at a disadvantage. Just ask former Patriots starter Cam Newton.
He didn’t get the jabs, violated testing protocols last week, missed a preseason game, lost his starting job to rookie Mac Jones ... and got cut Tuesday. This was dumb Newton, Act II: He’d contracted the virus last season, missed a start (which New England lost), but still wouldn’t get vaccinated. In the end, all things considered, Bill Belichick and the Patriots figured he just wasn’t worth having around.
Even if Wentz (and Newton) got vaccinated today they wouldn’t be considered fully vaccinated for two weeks if they get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and five weeks if they got the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Not messing around
In response to the Delta surge, on Monday the NFL and the NFLPA issued more vigorous protocols that continue to restrict the liberties of unvaccinated players. There will be less and less sympathy for unvaccinated players who contract the virus or miss games.
If you miss a start because your foot bone is broken, that’s one thing. When you miss a start because you made a “personal choice” to put your availability in jeopardy, that’s something entirely different.
Wentz first was unmasked as a selfish, exclusionary teammate after the 2018 season and during the 2019 season. In 2020, he began plotting his exit from Philadelphia as soon as he was benched in Game 12, while the Eagles were still in the playoff hunt, leaking to confidantes during the season and immediately afterward that he wanted to be traded. And, of course, after blowing off his exit interview and getting head coach Doug Pederson fired, Wentz still forced the catastrophic trade with the Colts.
The only silver lining: The Eagles might get a first-rounder. And now Wentz won’t sit still for half a cc of a liquid miracle more than 174 million other Americans have dutifully received.
We won’t waste words here defending the logic behind receiving the vaccine. There is no feasible argument against it. All of it distills to this:
If you do not get the vaccine, you put yourself, and the rest of us, at greater risk of contracting some iteration of COVID-19. That’s selfishness.
In an NFL locker room, that selfishness manifests itself in games missed. When the better players miss games, the team suffers. When the team suffers, teammates and fans will blame the selfish player.
As they should.