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Smallwood: Poor judgment for Eagles to put Wentz back into game

CALL ME overprotective, but there is no way I would have put Carson Wentz back into Thursday night's game against the New York Giants.

CALL ME overprotective, but there is no way I would have put Carson Wentz back into Thursday night's game against the New York Giants.

Yes, Wentz cleared the concussion protocol after Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon slammed him to the turf at Lincoln Financial Field. He did not hurt his shoulder or anything else, so it was simply a case of a player getting dinged up, sitting out a few plays and going back in.

It happens all the time in football. It is an expected Pavlov response, conditioned into players since Pop Warner.

I know football is a high-collision sport in which injuries can and will happen. Still, there is a bigger picture here. Wentz is the future of this Eagles franchise, and putting him at additional risk during a game in which the team had nothing at stake made little sense.

The fact that Wentz went into the locker room to be further evaluated for a head injury meant that Vernon rocked him enough to initiate the first steps in the concussion protocol. I know the NFL has strict standards that must be confirmed by an independent neurologist before a player is allowed back in a game. But that doesn't mean that a guy is necessarily going back in with a completely clear head. You don't have to be on goofy street to become more susceptible to another injury.

So I would have been overly cautious with Wentz. He had started his 15th game and the Eagles were leading when he got hurt. Considering he was cleared on the field, he will make his 16th start in the season finale against Dallas on New Year's Day.

If the situation were reversed and it was the Eagles playing to clinch a playoff instead of the Giants, I'd be all for going all out for the win.

I have to repeat that Wentz had been cleared to return to action.

The Eagles, however, were not playing with a postseason bid on the line. They were playing out the string in a disappointing season that will result in a losing record. Sure, it was important for the Birds to have broken that five-game losing streak with a 24-19 win, but was that a good enough reason to put Wentz back in the game?

I don't think so.

On Sunday, after the Eagles lost to the Baltimore Ravens, I wrote that the only thing that could possibly make the Eagles' season worse would be if the rookie quarterback were to get hurt in one of the final two games. I said that coach Doug Pederson should design plans for the final two games that would minimize situations where opposing rushers could get good runs at Wentz. Run the football, and when you want to pass, limit them to quick reads, screens and dump-off. Don't run any plays that would require Wentz to spend a significant amount of time standing in the pocket.

You do that because of the fact that Wentz is a hard-nosed competitor. If he's playing, he's going to go at full speed with full commitment.

And that was the precise danger. Wentz wasn't going to play with the attitude of trying to protect himself. Vernon threw him down because Wentz was trying to extend a play and make something happen. Vernon was flagged for a late hit.

Wentz left the game and then soon headed for the locker room. It was announced he was undergoing evaluation for a head injury.

Chase Daniel made his season debut and ran six plays.

Then, early in the fourth quarter, Wentz trotted back onto the field.

On his first play back, Wentz was scrambling away from pressure. On another play, he scrambled 11 yards but was smart enough to avoid a hit by giving himself up with a slide.

Then came the play that should really have raised eyebrows.

Wentz handed off to Jordan Matthews, who then handed off to Agholor on a reverse coming back to the left.

Wentz took off in front of Agholor and made a block downfield. He actually hurt New York cornerback Eli Apple. Regardless, I can't think of a good reason to send a quarterback who had just been evaluated for a head injury to act as a lead blocker. It just did not make sense.

In hindsight, since Wentz made it through the rest of the game unscathed, it is easy to dismiss the decision to reinsert him to the game. There is a strong argument to be made that he enhanced his status in the locker room as a quarterback dedicated to sacrificing for the team. Pederson even made reference to that notion after the game.

But this isn't about that. This is about the longer view of Wentz's importance to this franchise. I understand that this is football and that you don't baby Wentz.

Still, there are times when logic has to kick in and somebody has to say, "Wait a second, it doesn't make a lot of sense considering what we are trying to do."

The Eagles did not do that Thursday night with Wentz.