Carson Wentz says he feels comfortable after first 11-on-11 drills since injury
Eagles are being cautious with Wentz, but the quarterback is progressing.
Carson Wentz started training camp as a full participant in practice, taking part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since his December injury and clearing a major hurdle in his hope to start the Sept. 6 season opener.
Wentz said his next benchmark is being cleared for contact. The Eagles open the season in six weeks, and there was nothing on Thursday that suggested Wentz is behind schedule or that playing in the opener is far-fetched.
"We've got a good plan," Wentz said. "It's not just me making a decision. It's not just coach. It's not just the docs. It's a [combination] of everybody. …I like where I'm at right now."
Although there was an NFL Network report on Wednesday that the Eagles considered placing Wentz on the physically-unable-to-perform list, Wentz performed without apparent issue in Thursday's practice. Coach Doug Pederson said he did not know where the report came from and Wentz said the possibility was never mentioned to him.
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In fact, Wentz was cleared for the next step in his recovery during his Wednesday physical. He said the plan all along was to progress to this point by the first day of camp. He wore a brace on his left knee (and a silicone wedding band on his left hand), but he otherwise looked like the quarterback who was an MVP candidate one year ago. Wentz said there was no pain or soreness even while running. He did not need to elude defenders, but he also was not a statue in the pocket.
"I thought he was comfortable," said Pederson, adding that it was a limited practice on the first day.
The only difference was that Wentz's work came with the second-team offense while he recovers. Nick Foles took the first-team snaps. Pederson said not to read too much into the depth chart at this point, and that the time will come when Wentz is back with the starters. Pederson did not seem concerned about the six-week timetable before the opener and did not have a date for when the Eagles must make a decision or even transition from evaluating Wentz's health to determining whether Wentz can play.
"Six weeks is a lot of time," Pederson said. "Him and I are married to this deal. … His long-term health, obviously, I want him to have success for a long time. I want to make sure it's right. It's hard to say when that time is."
Speaking of marriage, Wentz's "amazing summer" included his nuptials and a honeymoon in Greece. He said he remained committed to his rehab throughout the summer break – even during the honeymoon.
"I got some workouts in," said Wentz, smiling when there was a burst of laughter. "In the fitness center!"
Foles also had a busy offseason, with a book tour and an ESPYs appearance after winning Super Bowl MVP. He returned to training camp the first-string quarterback … for now. Whenever Wentz is cleared, Wentz will become the starting quarterback. It leaves Foles in a nebulous state, and even he admitted he does not know what to label himself.
"I've said it before: I don't really care [about a label]," Foles said. "I know that I love my teammates, I love this city, I love playing for these coaches. …You don't need to say, 'Hey, you're the starter, you're the backup.' You're going to get me. It's not going to affect me. If that affects me, I've probably got some issue I've got to deal with."
Wentz is unlikely to play in the preseason, so Foles will at least be the top quarterback through August. But there is no question that Wentz is getting closer. He said he feels comfortable in the brace after spending the past few months practicing and rehabbing with one on his knee, and he's used video analysis and a private coach to ensure his mechanics are not altered because of the injury.
Although there are mental hurdles for a quarterback returning from a torn ACL, the decision about Wentz's status for the opener seems to be binary in his mind. He's either cleared for contact or he isn't. Once the doctors allow him to play in games, he believes his skills will be ready. But he hasn't heard a deadline for when that clearance must come.
"I'm not really sure, honestly," Wentz said. "I'd probably say September 6th."