Carson Wentz spoke to the media Friday for the first time since he suffered his season-ending knee injury Dec. 10 and said he is confident he’ll be back behind center in time for the Eagles’ 2018 season opener.
“It’s hard to talk about timetables because these kinds of things are fluid,’’ the Eagles quarterback told reporters. “But I feel very confident, I truly believe, my goal is to be ready for Week 1. I’m going to push and do everything I can to be ready, and I’m confident in that.’’
In a 10-minute chat at his locker in the team’s training facility, Wentz revealed that he tore not just the anterior cruciate ligament, but also the lateral collateral ligament, in his left knee. But he said the second tear will not delay his recovery.
“The [rehab] progression is the same,’’ he said. “It’s gone great so far. I 100 percent feel I’ll be back better than ever, stronger than ever, and with no looking back.’’
An Eagles medical source corroborated Wentz’s recovery timetable to the Inquirer’s and Daily News’ Les Bowen Friday. The source told Bowen that Wentz should be ready for the start of the season. He added that the quarterback won’t be 100 percent by then, but that it will be safe for him to play.
Despite losing Wentz, who had thrown an NFL-high 33 touchdown passes and was a leading candidate for MVP at the time of his injury, the resilient Eagles have managed to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years.
Wentz’s replacement, Nick Foles, has a 122.1 passer rating in the Eagles’ two playoff wins over Atlanta and Minnesota. He completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s 38-7 win over the Vikings.
“It’s tough to not be out there,’’ Wentz said. “But I love watching these guys, and I couldn’t be happier for Nick.
“As close as we are, we embraced each other [after the Vikings win] and spoke some words. I’m just so happy for him. Going through what he’s gone through, you guys know the story. He almost retired [in 2015] and everything.
“He just had faith, and the Lord opened an opportunity for him here, and now he’s starting in the Super Bowl. How cool is that for him?’’
Wentz has been criticized for his style of play. He’s got a lot of Ben Roethlisberger in him. He suffered the injury diving into the end zone against the Rams.
Even one of his own teammates, running back Jay Ajayi, was overheard by NFL Films saying after the run, “He’s gotta stop doin’ that.’’
Wentz ran the ball only 64 times in 13 games. But he had 26 rushing first downs, which were the second most among NFL quarterbacks at the time of his injury, behind only Cam Newton.
Despite what happened, Wentz said he is not going to change the way he plays. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be reckless. But he’s not going chain himself to the pocket, either.
“I am who I am,’’ he said. “Injuries happen. Injuries aren’t going to change me. Guys talk about protecting yourself. We’ve debated and talked about that all season long.
“That will continue to grow and develop. But as far as playing aggressive and being the player that I am, I won’t change.’’
Wentz said he still isn’t sure how the injury happened. There has been some speculation that it might have happened before he dived into the end zone and was hit by two Rams defenders.
“It’s hard to know,’’ he said. “I wish I knew. It happened so fast. All I remember is getting up and knowing it didn’t feel right in there.’’
And when he found out he had torn the ACL?
“It was tough,’’ he said. “Obviously I knew the season was over for me personally. But I had to fight those feelings of self-pity for that day. I got through that pretty quick. My teammates, friends and fans, and my faith in the Lord got me through. It’s been great.’’
Like many of the other Eagles players who have suffered season-ending injuries this season — including left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Jordan Hicks and special-teams stud Chris Maragos — Wentz has continued to stay very involved with the team even though he can’t play.
He’s been on the sideline for both of the playoff wins. Hoisted the NFC championship trophy with Foles Sunday after beating the Vikings. He’ll be on the team charter Monday when the Eagles fly to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII
He attends practices and many of the team and positional meetings and watches film with Foles and the Eagles’ other quarterback, Nate Sudfeld.
“I’m trying to be involved as much as I can,’’ Wentz said. “Obviously, I have to do my own rehab and workouts as well. I’m not there for everything.
“I’m just trying to do what Nick and Nate did for me all season. Just help them, be with them in the film room. Say what I see as well.
“But Nick’s done a great job. He’s really taken the leadership role. I’m just trying to help support him as best I can.’’
Wentz said he’s proud of not only the job Foles has done as his replacement but also the way the entire team continued to move forward after his injury.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the team’s leaders, addressed the team in the visitor’s locker room at the LA Coliseum immediately after the Rams game.
“The guys kind of had a feeling what [his injury] was,’’ Wentz said. “Malcolm addressed it great. It was, ‘Hey, next man up.’
“That’s been the mentality we’ve had all season long. No one flinched. No one blinked. The proof’s in the pudding right now in where we’re at and how we’ve still been winning ballgames.’’
Wentz firmly believes this is just the beginning. He’s not going to make the mistake owner Jeff Lurie made years ago and predict “Super Bowls’’ or suggest the Eagles are the league’s “gold standard.’’
But he thinks they are going to be very good for a very long time.
“I think we have something special here,’’ he said. “That starts with the ownership on down. We’re establishing a culture. Coming in the same time with [head coach Doug Pederson] has been cool to establish that together.
“We’re wired for success for a long time.’’
Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman’s newsletter for Eagles fans. Click here to sign up.