The situation surrounding Carson Wentz’s back injury got a little clearer Friday, but only a little.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters that the team’s franchise quarterback has “a stress injury,” which he agreed could be referred to as a stress fracture. Pederson said healing could take as long as three months, but said there is no chance Wentz will need surgery. He said the injury “evolved,” but wouldn’t specify when it first cropped up.
A source with knowledge of the situation told the Inquirer and the Daily News that Wentz’s medical report, given to teams at the NFL Scouting Combine before the 2016 draft, referred to a healed stress fracture in his back from his time at North Dakota State.
That revelation doesn’t make this setback career-threatening or anything, but it does add another layer to Wentz’s injury history, which includes a wrist fracture in college, ribs broken in his first NFL preseason game, and last year’s ACL and LCL surgery.
Pederson seemed to acknowledge that some level of concern is appropriate, in looking ahead to what the Eagles hope is another decade or more with Wentz as their starting QB.
“To ask the question now, after three [NFL] years, and the injury situation that's going on, I think you guys can sit here and say that it's probably a red flag,” Pederson said. “A lot of injuries occur because of the nature of the sport, the violent hits of this sport. Guys know exactly what they are getting into, even at a young age, and Carson is no different.
“But moving forward, we just have to make sure that we do a better job of protecting him, starting with the offensive line, starting with the backs. He does his part by getting the ball out of his hand. I do my part by maybe incorporating more screens and quick throws to help that. But it’s not in any way going to change the aggressiveness of my nature or his, moving forward.”
Pederson called Wentz “questionable” for Sunday night’s game at Los Angeles against the 11-2 Rams, though players have been talking all week as if Nick Foles will start, and Wentz has not practiced. Late Friday afternoon, the Eagles officially designated Wentz as “doubtful.” Pederson said Wentz will accompany the team on the trip.
The team declined to make either Wentz or Foles available Friday. Apparently, Foles would have talked to reporters had Pederson named him the starter, but since that didn’t happen, there was no word from the Super Bowl MVP.
Pederson’s tone was defensive, to say the least, as he was asked how the injury might relate to Wentz’s appearance on the injury report with a back issue in October.
“He has a stress injury, evolved over time, and he requires no surgery. I'm not asking or answering any more questions about it. We're playing the Rams in two days, if you guys haven't figured this out,” Pederson said, as reporters probed for details. “So, he's listed as questionable and that's the way it is.”
Pederson said the fracture was discovered in a scan done on Tuesday. He said the injury hasn’t affected the way he has used Wentz, who did not seem especially comfortable in the pocket or very mobile in last Sunday’s loss at Dallas. Asked if the injury had worsened since October, Pederson said: “Has he felt worse? No.”
Of course, feeling worse isn’t the same exact same thing as the injury not getting worse.
Meanwhile, the 6-7 team -- which Friday saw rookie offensive tackle Jordan Mailata become the 14th Eagle placed on injured reserve this season (including tight end Richard Rodgers, who has returned) -- prepared to once again put its faith in Foles.
“He looked good” in practice, right guard Brandon Brooks said. Foles hasn’t played since Week 2 at Tampa Bay. “The thing is, he’s been in this situation so many times, it’s not like a new guy coming in.
“People need to realize – Nick is Nick, man. Super-positive, super-upbeat. Calm.”
Wideout Golden Tate wasn’t here last year. He said he has gotten in a little work with his new QB.
“I’ve caught a few passes from him. It doesn’t change the way I run my routes at all,” Tate said. “It’s been fine. He’s a confident guy. I think he has a really good beat for the game plan. … He’s been in this situation before, and handled it very well.”
Tate said he watched Foles in Super Bowl LII.
“He went out there and made plays – caught the ball, threw the ball. Did a lot to help this team win a Super Bowl.”
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor said 2017 and 2018 are “two different situations” for Foles, but “all I know is, he’s the guy,” and Agholor’s job, he said, is to get open for him.
If and when the Eagles are officially eliminated from playoff contention, one thing fans might have expected was to see Mailata at left tackle. The former rugby player from Australia has been activated on game day several times, but has yet to actually play in an NFL regular-season game.
And now that he is on injured reserve, he will not do so this season, the team citing a back problem that first appeared on the team’s injury report Thursday. No details were provided.
Replacing soon-to-be-37-year-old Jason Peters with Mailata next season now looks like an even bigger gamble.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace has been expected back from IR before the end of the season – he went down with a broken fibula in the Week 2. Wallace said Friday that he is still trying to get his cutting, change-of-direction ability back to where it was before the injury, and that being ready to play before the regular season ends is “going to be close.”
The Eagles listed as “out” for Sunday middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf), left guard Isaac Seumalo (pec), corner Sidney Jones (hamstring), and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back).
You can watch a replay of Pederson’s press conference below. The video starts at around the 20:00 mark.