Wentz can’t seem to stomach teammate’s trash talk
PHILADELPHIA >> It’s Dallas week. The NFC East lead is at stake. There’s no better time for the Eagles to show unity.
Quarterback Carson Wentz had a golden opportunity Thursday to stand up in support of embattled teammate Kamu GrugierHill. All Wentz had to do was acknowledge he wouldn’t have used the verbiage Grugier-Hill did to trash the Cowboys, who the Eagles oppose Sunday.
Instead, Wentz switched into safe mode and distanced himself from the linebacker-turnedEagles fan who said the Cowboys have a history of choking and would do just that Sunday. The QB was having none of that.
“Yeah, I mean I don’t want to dive into that at all,” Wentz said. “All I know is we, and myself personally, have a lot of respect for that team. A lot of respect for that team and what they’re doing this year.”
Grugier-Hill obviously would like to have his sound bite to do over. The same with head coach Doug Pederson, who spoke around it during a conference call with Cowboys media. The truth is Grugier-Hill is a solid citizen, a total team player and extremely well-liked by colleagues in the locker room.
Eagles players kept their sense of humor through the “choke” drama. Shelton Gibson, the 5-11 wide receiver, hid his face in a hoodie and slipped into Grugier-Hill’s No. 54 jersey. Gibson performed the walk of shame to Grugier-Hill’s locker after practice Thursday, reporters chasing him. Gibson sat down with his back to the mob but couldn’t stay in character. He rose with the biggest smile there was all day at the complex.
In another part of the locker room, defensive end Chris Long, the Eagles’ Walter Payton Man
of the Year nominee, got the media to laugh just by suggesting of the GrugierHill comments, “Y’all love this, don’t you? This makes your job easier.”
If Long learned one thing in a 10-year career, it’s to love your teammate in such circumstances. He was authentic and automatic with his response.
“It’s not something I’d say but I’ve got his back,” Long said. “It’s going to be a physical, intense football game. And at the end of the day that’s all it comes down to. I’ve got Kamu’s back. Everybody’s got each other’s back. That’s what a team’s about.”
Safety Malcolm Jenkins was the same way. He’s with Grugier-Hill, too. And he doesn’t think the first-place Cowboys need any more motivation than to be playing the Eagles at home.
Why it’s so difficult for Wentz to understand all of this is beyond me. It’s not as if the Eagles would shortchange him on his looming contract extension. And what if management did object? Wentz is the quarterback, his own man.
The whole episode reminds me of the week leading up to Super Bowl 39 when outspoken Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell called out New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, saying, “I’ve got something for you, Harrison.”
Donovan McNabb left Mitchell hanging. So, did many of Mitchell’s teammates. At the end of the day, McNabb threw two interceptions to Harrison, just one completion to Mitchell and the Eagles lost, 24-21, to a very beatable Patriots team.
That was the last NFL appearance for FredEx. In the NBA Finals last year, he applauded Lebron James for sticking up when then-Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith mistakenly dribbled out the clock in a tie game. The Cavs would lose in overtime to the Golden State Warriors. Mitchell’s tweet: “I gotta respect @KingJames for standing up for his teammate. McNabb would never do that for me.”
If the Eagles lose Sunday, critics will blame it on Grugier-Hill for inciting the Cowboys. If the Eagles win, it’s probably not going to be because Grugier-Hill contributed three pick-sixes. The teams are too evenly matched.
Too often, professional athletes think they should sanitize what they say publicly out of fear of coaches or management. The confident payers roll with their instincts, and that would be the very people they’ve worked so hard with to get to where they are.
Wentz showed courage in his second season with the Eagles, when good friend Jordan Matthews was dealt to the Buffalo Bills for cornerback Ronald Darby. Wentz even spoke up at an unscheduled availability.
“It’s one of those things where there’s the personal side of things and the football side of things,” Wentz said at the time. “The football side of things, you’ve just got to trust what they’re doing upstairs. Ultimately, they’re the ones that make those decisions and what they think is best for the team, I’m going to be in support of 100 percent. They haven’t let me down or this team down yet. But on a personal side, it’s tough. This is my first time experiencing something like this with someone who’s one of my best friends.”
Here’s hoping Wentz gets to that place again.
If you’re the unequivocal leader of the team, the guy who’s going to lead the squad to where it wants to go, you can do better than this:
“I just want to say personally,” Wentz said of the Cowboys, “and as a team we have a lot of respect for them and we’re excited for this one.”
Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, here defending Giants receiver Sterling Shepard in a game Nov. 25, did plenty of talking Wednesday about the Cowboys and their propensity for ‘choking.’