Carson Wentz's recovery has been measured in steps. It was a big deal in January when he no longer used crutches. There was excitement in March when he posted an online video passing the football. When the Eagles started organized team activities last month, Wentz took part in individual drills. He graduated to seven-on-seven drills last week.
By most measures, it's been a successful spring for Wentz. The Eagles begin training camp in six weeks. The season opens in 12 weeks. The clock is ticking on Wentz's stated goal of playing Week 1. So what's the next benchmark for the Eagles' franchise quarterback?
"I think the biggest thing right now is just keep pushing along until I'm cleared," Wentz said Wednesday after a minicamp session. "There's little benchmarks along the way, but there's nothing huge. As you see out here, I'm doing quite a bit. The biggest, last hurdle is going to be the contact part."
Wentz has been active in practices. He doesn't participate in full-team drills, but when they take place, Wentz doesn't stand still. He ran on a side field on Tuesday, working on change of direction. On Wednesday, he threw passes to injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. During individual and seven-on-seven drills, the only indication that Wentz is injured is the brace on his left knee.
"As my man Joel Embiid would say, just keep trusting the process," Wentz said.
Wentz is getting used to the brace. He believes he's maintained his mechanics. Even after surgery in January, Wentz would throw from the ground to stay sharp while the team prepared for the playoffs.
While minicamp ends Thursday, Wentz's rehab won't stop. He will have some time to himself, but he'll spend most of the next month rehabbing at the team's facility . One year ago, he hosted the receivers in North Dakota for a passing camp and team bonding. They won't do that this year because of Wentz's rehab schedule.
Most of his teammates will scatter around the country, but the injured players are familiar with the training room. That's when Wentz might hit those "little benchmarks."
"The medical staff will put those benchmarks in place for him from a health standpoint," coach Doug Pederson said. "Those are all things that are kind of out of our control [and] my control right now. It's just a matter of steady progression as we build toward training camp. He's going to work extremely hard over the next month, month and a half, and be ready for camp, obviously, and then we'll just reevaluate. But those boxes will all get checked, based on what our doctors and training staff will put forth for him."
Wentz does not know what he'll be able to do when training camp arrives. He said "it's a fluid" process, and he thinks he'll be able to "keep pushing it every day more and more" in training camp. But there's no indication when he'll be cleared for live contact.
The Eagles will practice for two weeks before preseason games begin. Then there's four weeks before the regular season opens. Wentz knows the window is narrowing.
"It's hard to say I need X to be ready," Wentz said. "I think, at the end of the day, I just need to be cleared for contact. Like you see out here, I'm doing quite a bit. I think, come camp, I'll keep progressing and doing more and more. To finally be cleared of that contact issue is really the last hurdle, and I feel I'll be ready whenever that is."
There is little question that Wentz will be the starter when he's healthy. Pederson reiterated on Tuesday that the Eagles are "Carson's team" but that Nick Foles is the starting quarterback until Wentz is cleared. Foles has taken the first-team snaps throughout the spring. He'll likely be the No. 1 quarterback in the preseason, too.
It seems unlikely that Wentz will play in preseason games. Wentz and Pederson have said the quarterback does not necessarily need to play in the preseason to be ready for Week 1, and the belief in the locker room is that Wentz can get the work he needs in practices.
What matters to Wentz is Sept. 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.