PHOENIX - Asked where Carson Wentz is, Doug Pederson joked that he didn't know, before the questioner could continue his query. Pederson understood he was not being asked about the second-year quarterback's physical whereabouts as March concludes, but about his development.
Pederson is more in the dark than he wants to be in that area, as well. Thanks to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the Eagles' coach can't monitor the offseason focus of his franchise player, can't even chat with him about football until the team convenes for minicamp April 17.
"Well, I can tell you this, Carson will be ready to go April 17th. He'll be wanting to get on the field in Phase 1 (of the spring work)," Pederson said Wednesday at the NFC coaches' breakfast, the final event of the NFL owners meetings.
The Eagles' coaches last spoke meaningfully to Wentz a couple of days after the season ended, nearly three months ago. They told him what they wanted him to work on, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo delivered a specific plan, and, based on how the 2016 No. 2 overall draft pick handled his rookie season, they are confident he has been addressing that, but really, they don't know.
"The hardest thing with our offseason is, we don't have time with our players," Pederson said. "We just can't spend time with our guys and develop (them). It's just the nature of the offseason, the CBA, the whole thing. So with that being said, you're hoping he's taken what he's learned . . . And just (tried) to focus on those fundamental issues - the offseason issues, drills that he can do, and begin to work on coming into OTAs."
The Eagles did not arrange Wentz's offseason work with motion mechanics instructor Adam Dedeaux, and Pederson said he has not spoken with Dedeaux about it.
What does Pederson think Dedeaux and Wentz might have changed mechanically?
"Probably not much really. It'll be interesting when we finally get him in here to talk to him and just see how he felt about that," Pederson said. "We just can't wait to get our hands on him, too, to begin and continue to work."
Asked whether he had asked Wentz to work on mechanics, Pederson said, "What I encourage for all of our players is to develop their talent, and if they seek out help, then they seek out help."
Pederson said he isn't worried that Dedeaux's teachings might have clashed with anything the Eagles were implementing.
"Not concerned with that at all; I know Carson, I know his chemistry, his makeup," Pederson said. "He's got a lot of confidence in coach DeFilippo and Frank (Reich, the Eagles' offensive coordinator)."
Pederson reiterated that his offseason advice to Wentz wasn't about mechanics.
"It's like I tell every player - get away, relax. I don't want to see you, you don't need to see me. Get out of the building, go on vacation, heal up, rest, do all of those things that you need to do and be fresh when you come back April 17th. Take some time for yourself," Pederson said.
"For him, it's hard, because he wants to throw every day . . . Don't touch a ball, just stay away."
As far as Pederson can tell, Wentz took his advice.
"He did a lot of hunting, I know that," Pederson said. "You look at all the social-media shots and everything . . . Just not having to go through the whole (scouting) combine and 30 visits and workouts and all that, and just (being able to) spend time with his family" probably made this offseason less stressful than last, Pederson said.
"Just to be able to exhale, catch his breath and come into this offseason knowing that he's the starter, not having to guess if he's going to be the starter, is big for him," Pederson said. "It's part of his maturity, it's part of his growth at that position. We definitely want to see incremental progress. I mean, it's not going to be an overnight change, obviously. But, each day we've got to make sure that we're getting him ready to go for Day 1, for Opening Day."
Wentz's arm was fine after throwing 607 passes in his rookie season, completing an NFL rookie-record 379, for 3,782 yards, Pederson said.
"There was nothing wrong with him, he was healthy. He played 16 games; I'm not going to sit here and tell you that he was 100 percent feeling great, but at the same time, he's just like every player. I mean, Jason Peters wasn't feeling great. It's a 16-game schedule, you know? But he was fine, he was great."
For the Eagles in 2017, all story lines lead back to Wentz. You might get tired of hearing that, but it was the prevailing message here all week, from de facto general manager Howie Roseman, player personnel vice president Joe Douglas, Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie, and then finally Wednesday, from Pederson.
The only question that really seemed to give Pederson pause, during the longest inquisition any NFL coach faces each year - a solid hour at a table in a banquet room with dozens of reporters milling about - was when he was asked about his future being tied to Wentz's development.
"That's a good question. It's always the head coach and the quarterback, right? At this level? So I think that answers it," he said. "The . . . success of Carson, then we all have success."
Maybe the biggest move the Eagles have made so far this offseason to boost Wentz's chances for success is the signing of free-agent wideout Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal. Pederson acknowledged that Jeffery, 27, is "a big target, he's a veteran player, wealth of experience, a lot of games, excellent in route running, strong to the ball. For us, he brings some leadership into that room, and makes that room better."
Pederson wouldn't commit to a starting left guard - if center Jason Kelce sticks around, 2016 rookie Isaac Seumalo would seem to have the inside track to Kelce's left. Pederson sidestepped an attempt to get him to say Beau Allen definitely is in line to start at the defensive-tackle spot that opened when Bennie Logan left for Kansas City in free agency.
Asked how he views Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon as a draft prospect, Pederson extolled his talent, while calling character "the wave of the future" in the NFL. (Mixon is on video breaking a woman's jaw during an altercation in 2014.)
Pederson seemed to be saying that more and more, successful teams breed a culture of players who, in his words, "have a passion, one, for the game, and they also have a passion for just being good, upstanding human beings."
Mixon, Pederson said, is "an explosive player, he's dynamic, and someone will give him an opportunity."
Pederson said that with three West Coast games this season, the Eagles have asked the NFL whether they could get two of them back-to-back, so they could minimize travel by staying out there. We'll see whether that works out when the schedule is released next month.
The Eagles' biggest problem area going into the draft would seem to be cornerback, where both 2016 starters are gone and the only free-agent addition so far is Patrick Robinson, for one year and a reported $1 million, not really starting-corner money. In answering a question about this, Pederson echoed some of what Roseman and Lurie said this week about a process of building around Wentz that will extend well beyond 2017.
"When it comes to issues or questions like that, I want to do everything right now - I want, 'Boom, let's answer everything right now.' But we have to be patient, we have to stay true to our plan," Pederson said. "We talk about the process and just kind of going through it . . . Everybody knows this is a healthy draft that way, secondary players, and again, we do our due diligence with every player. We're going to evaluate, and hopefully we can answer some of the questions that we have. At the end of the day, the guys are the guys that we have, and we get ready for the season."