Carson Wentz was stunning in Saturday's first 11-on-11 workout in pads at Eagles training camp. The quarterback danced around traffic in the pocket, sprinted away from pressure, threw on the run, and looked like he did a year ago.
Wentz and his surgically repaired left knee looked ready for his stated goal of returning for the start of the season, with 5½ weeks to spare.
So, of course, Wentz hasn't done any 11-on-11 work in the three Eagles practices since then. Head coach Doug Pederson bristled Wednesday at the implication of cause-and-effect, as reporters tried to plumb:
1. Did Wentz suffer any ill effects from Saturday's work?
2. Did the Eagles watch linemen pushing, pulling, and stumbling around Wentz's feet – one rep looked particularly hazardous – and decide it was too dicey for a franchise QB not yet cleared for contact?
Neither Pederson nor Wentz offered reason to believe that any setback occurred. Pederson was emphatic that nothing about the rehab plan changed after Saturday; Wentz, a bit less so.
"My understanding is, coaches and trainers and everybody just want to stay in a more controlled environment right now, with where we're at and everything, so that's what we're doing," Wentz said.
"I'm not really sure exactly what the concern was – I don't know if there was a concern," Wentz said. "Again, it was just part of the plan. Haven't been cleared for contact, so I know that's kind of part of the reason, just want to keep me out of some of those — stay in more controlled environments going forward."
>> READ MORE: Eagles practice observations
Pederson wouldn't say when he sees Wentz returning to 11-on-11 work. The coach's spin was that Saturday showed him what he needed to see.
"There is no time frame. I'm very encouraged, obviously, where he's at," Pederson said. "What I saw last week is enough to ease my mind. I don't need to see him in 11-on-11 drills right now. He's progressing extremely well. I don't want to subject him to any setback or anything like that; I want to keep him progressive and moving forward. Those couple of days we had with him [as a full participant] were very exciting, very encouraging for me."
Pederson specifically denied that seeing Wentz dodging around Saturday's hurly-burly spooked the coaches.
"No. Because there was no contact involved," Pederson said. "It was just Carson playing quarterback and just making a quarterback move. It had nothing to do with pulling back on him. We just wanted to see him, I wanted to see him a couple days and see where he was at physically, and came away very positive, very encouraged, and now we can move forward."
Wentz noted that he has been in the workouts every day, at least for individual drills and seven-on-sevens. The Eagles took Monday off but have worked the other six days since practice began last Thursday. Wentz said his offseason rehab schedule was four or five days of work, followed by a couple days of rest.
He said he hasn't changed his outlook on when he can be ready to play – but his answer did seem a little more open-ended than it had been.
"It's pretty much stayed the same, all the way, all throughout. I'm sticking to my goal," Wentz said. "Again, you can't say with 100 percent certainty what it's going to be, but I'm sticking to my goal. Hope it's going to be Week 1, but if not, it's a fluid process, and we'll see as we get going."
Wentz, injured on Dec. 10, talked in the spring of how he'd never experienced an injury rehab longer than a few months and of the patience he was forced to develop. It was evident Wednesday that after working 11-on-11, going back to bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet while watching the other three QBs work has not been fun.
"I want to be out there today, I want to be out there Week 1, I wanted to be out there last year," Wentz said. "But there's certain limitations and certain things that you just can't do, and I have to trust what they say. It's tough. It's been tough ever since I got hurt, to have to watch practice and not be out there. Things sometimes are slow or maybe not going so well, and you think, 'Oh, I want to get out there and kind of boost the morale or change some things.' … I've just got to trust; it'll be here before we know it."
Saturday, in the midst of all the exclaiming over Wentz's unexpected deftness, his friend and tight end Zach Ertz cautioned that progress wouldn't be linear. Ertz reiterated that on Wednesday.
"Every rehab is a roller-coaster, mentally and physically," Ertz said. "Mentally, I know he wants to be out there, but physically, the doctors are doing what they need to do."