PHILADELPHIA – Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is not Superman, tight end Zach Ertz noted recently. He hasn’t seen live action in nine months, and shouldn’t feel like he has to come in and do the heavy lifting.
But Wentz is setting the bar high. While his coaches and teammates will try to provide necessary support as he makes his return from a multi-ligament knee injury against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Wentz believes he and the offense can operate like it did late last season before he went down with a torn ACL and LCL in Week 13.
“We expect to go out and start fast, play fast, be clicking, and so I truly believe that’s a realistic expectation,” Wentz said before Wednesday’s practice. “Now, [it’s] football, it’s not always like that, so those things come and you have to learn how to balance the ebbs and flows of the game and everything, but I think we all hold ourselves to high expectations around here.”
Wentz will heed the doctors’ advice and continue to wear a brace on his surgically repaired left knee as he has this offseason, and says he is now at a point where he’s gotten used to it. A large black sleeve covered that brace during practice Wednesday. Otherwise, there were no other signs that pointed to his injury. Now nine-plus months removed from surgery, he is moving fluidly and planting with confidence.
While it may be a little while until he pulls off escapes at the level he did when at the top of his game last season, Wentz intends to play the position as he always has and use his legs to his advantage.
“I feel extremely confident moving around, on the run,” he said. “Even last year I never said I’m a running quarterback, I never want to be, but I’ll find ways to extend time in the pocket and make plays down the field, and I don’t think that’s going anywhere.”
Similarly, Doug Pederson said that he is not going to “coach scared.” He’ll max protect when there’s opportunities, but does not plan to be timid in his play-calling.
That’s not to say that his health is not being prioritized. There have been conversations about Wentz better protecting himself dating back well before the injury, something Wentz has had plenty of time to think about and continued to work on.
Wentz says that he is looking forward to taking that first hit – “always a good wake-up call to remind yourself you’re playing a man’s game out there” – and believes he’ll feel at home despite the long layoff.
“I know once I’m out there, I’ll feel good. I feel good in practice. I realize live action is going to feel a little different, but I’ve been fortunate the last couple weeks going against the [first-team] defense as the scout quarterback, obviously they play extremely fast, so just seeing those things. The more experience out there, the better but I think it will come second nature once I’m out there.”