Carson Wentz experienced what he described as a “roller coaster” of emotions during the past five weeks, when he was sidelined with a stress fracture in his back and the Eagles made a playoff push without him in the lineup. Wentz said that although he wanted to play, there was too much risk with the injury to remain in the lineup after doctors determined the severity of the injury following a Dec. 9 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
“We decided as we discovered exactly what it was…that it wasn’t the best idea to play, just with the risks involved,” Wentz said Monday in his first public comments since the injury.
Wentz remained on the 53-man roster because he and the team wanted to keep the option open that he could return, noting that “you never know what could happen.” He echoed comments by Doug Pederson that the injury developed over time and they cannot pinpoint when the injury started. The first time he was limited in a practice session for a back injury was in October. The exact nature of the injury was discovered after the Cowboys game, but Wentz did not fault anyone involved for keeping him on the field while the injury evolved because “some of these things are hard to diagnose.”
“I wasn’t concerned with why I was out there,” Wentz said. “I’m just thankful we did find it when we did.”
Wentz expects to make a full recovery. He did not put a timeline on when he would return to optimal health, although with the Eagles’ season finished after Sunday’s divisional round loss to New Orleans, he has time on his side. He’s eager to participate in the entirety of the offseason program after missing last season while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
Wentz has sustained an injury that required him to miss time during the past four years dating back to his final season at North Dakota State. He’s aware that there is criticism of his injury history. The only way he can quell those concerns is by staying on the field.
’I’m looking forward to putting that to rest over the next couple years,” Wentz said. “But at the end of the day, you play this game, you can’t control injuries. Things happens.”
Wentz said he never had a back fracture when he was in college, disputing a report of a previous injury. What cannot be disputed is that he’s ended the past two seasons on the injury list, missing the Super Bowl run last year and the playoffs this year. It’s not lost on Wentz that he has yet to start a postseason game.
“Super frustrating,” Wentz said. “I realize I have a lot to prove in that regard. I’m confident I will get the chance to do that. The human side of that, it is frustrating.”
Wentz remained supportive of Nick Foles in relief during the past two seasons. He acknowledged that Foles’ success could put pressure on him to perform, although he does his best to “block that stuff out.” He didn’t address any behind-the-scenes assurances or votes of confidence from the coaches and front office about his long-term standing with the team, although Doug Pederson’s comments have remained consistent that Wentz is the team’s franchise quarterback. Wentz is eligible for a contract extension beginning this offseason, but he did not want to discuss his contract the day after the Eagles’ season concluded. He was uninterested in adding material for the Wentz-Foles debates in Philadelphia.
“I know there’s a lot of he-said, she-said things out there,” Wentz said. “I can’t control those. What I can control is getting my body right, getting healthy, and getting myself back on the field to prove the player I can be.”
One year ago, that was an MVP candidate. Wentz played at a high level at times this season, although his performances were less consistent and there were fewer wins. Wentz was dealing with his injury during the season – even if the extent was unknown – but he did not want to use that as an excuse for his play. He said it was “not a factor” on gameday. He would not rule out whether effects from the knee injury led to problems with the back, but he also wouldn’t say that was the cause and he said it “it’s hard to play that game in hindsight.”
His major message was about getting healthy, putting the back injury behind him, and returning to the form that made him Philadelphia’s biggest star before Eagles fans became too familiar seeing him on the sideline. The Eagles made the decision to sit Wentz to protect his long-term health, and if he stays healthy, the past five weeks will one day been a distant memory.
“There’s a frustration of not being out there and the real human emotions of not playing and everything involved with that,” Wentz said. “But at the end of the day, I know God’s been working on my heart and has been helping me see this game as what it is: a game. It doesn’t define me at the end of the day. I’ve been thankful that we did find it when we did and that I can get healthy and hopefully never see this again.”