WENTZ IS ALL SET­TLED IN AND READY TO GO

Car­son Wentz thinks he has found it thanks to his strong, mul­ti­lay­ered sup­port sys­tem

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Fierro

In his never-end­ing quest for self­im­prove­ment, Philadelph­ia Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz feels he has the best sup­port sys­tem in the world: a head coach in Doug Ped­er­son with whom he’s been able to grow every year since en­ter­ing the NFL in 2016; a stable fam­ily life with a wife and two dogs; a bond with his team­mates that he’s worked over­time to so­lid­ify; his faith in Je­sus Christ; and a body re­shaped by a new nu­tri­tion and con­di­tion­ing pro­gram. All that, com­bined with an ad­vanced, star-wars weapon sys­tem, should give Wentz mul­ti­ple op­tions nearly every time he looks to pass and the time to de­cide which is best. In a wide-rang­ing meet­ing with reporters last month, two days af­ter the Ea­gles’ third pre­sea­son game, Wentz opened up about his re­cent in­jury prob­lems and how the emo­tional pain was as in­tense as his phys­i­cal strug­gles.

But as the start of his fourth sea­son ap­proaches with the weight of cham­pi­onship ex­pec­ta­tions hav­ing been thrust on his shoul­ders, Wentz is ea­ger and at ease. For maybe the first time in his pro career, his com­fort level matches his en­thu­si­asm.

“I feel … ob­vi­ously in a dif­fer­ent place,” he said. “I’ve men­tioned it be­fore, but with just ev­ery­thing I’ve gone through the last cou­ple of years with the in­juries, es­pe­cially from the men­tal side of it and just hav­ing peace of mind with ev­ery­thing. … Know­ing I’ll be out there in two weeks and ev­ery­thing with that, I feel I’m just men­tally in a much dif­fer­ent place. And phys­i­cally I feel good too.

“[I’m a] lit­tle more re­laxed, you could prob­a­bly say.”

Get­ting to this state was a com­pli­cated process that al­most cer­tainly couldn’t have been achieved with­out the ad­ver­sity he’s faced over the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons.

“It’s been a jour­ney, and by no means am I go­ing to say I have ev­ery­thing fig­ured out,” Wentz said. “But the pres­sure and the ex­pec­ta­tions sur­round­ing ev­ery­thing that I have al­ways done a good job of block­ing out — then you com­pound that with in­jury and then the strug­gle that we had last year early on, it just kind of got me to … see­ing this game, it was more stress­ful and I was less free play­ing it.” Wentz’s back in­jury was a tip­ping point.

“It just al­lowed me to re­lease ev­ery­thing and take a big­ger look at it,” he said. “As a lot of you guys know, my faith has re­ally got­ten me through re­ally ev­ery­thing. So just re­mem­ber­ing that I play this game for a much big­ger pic­ture and that God’s in con­trol of every sin­gle de­tail of it — just sur­ren­der­ing that to him was a chal­lenge, but that’s ul­ti­mately what got me through it.”

Ac­tu­ally, there was more to it than that.

Wentz knew that he needed to for­tify his body to bet­ter pro­tect him­self from soft-tis­sue and non­con­tact in­juries. He also knew, based on crit­i­cisms he was aware of even be­fore a story de­tail­ing many of his al­leged short­com­ings was pub­lished in Jan­uary by PhillyVoic­e, that he had to work harder at build­ing re­la­tion­ships with cer­tain team­mates. With the im­pend­ing depar­ture of Nick Foles, Wentz had to make the team his.

That pres­sure and the con­stant state of re­hab — from the torn ACL to the stress frac­ture in his back — wore on Wentz to the point where he turned to his pas­tor to help him with a re­boot.

Af­ter watch­ing the Ea­gles win Su­per Bowl LII, he was side­lined again last sea­son as the team won its last three reg­u­lar-sea­son games to make the play­offs and posted a wild-card win over Chicago.

“I just kind of had a lot of built-up frus­tra­tion and ev­ery­thing, and I just talked to him and let it all out,” Wentz said. “Ev­ery­thing I’ve been go­ing through, the jour­ney and ev­ery­thing, I just kind of let it all out and just fully sur­ren­dered it.”

Wentz had al­ways planned bond­ing events with his of­fen­sive team­mates but be­gan to in­clude ev­ery­one, and his team­mates no­ticed. Even now that Wentz ap­pears to have won over the team­mates who might not have been ready to fol­low his lead in pre­vi­ous sea­sons, he knows that’s far from the fi­nal step.

He also needs to im­prove on the field, mak­ing faster and bet­ter de­ci­sions in 2019 while bal­anc­ing his scram­bling and run­ning abil­i­ties.

“I’m still go­ing to get hit,” Wentz said. “I can’t avoid that. I’m still go­ing to run around at times and try to make a play. That ag­gres­sive­ness in my game isn’t go­ing to go any­where, but there’s go­ing to be lit­tle things where I think I can just find a com­ple­tion and move on if it’s not the ideal look or they’re bring­ing pres­sure and I just need to spit it out. Those types of things.

“But like I said, I’m go­ing to have to go do it. I’m go­ing to have to go prove it. But men­tally, I feel like I’m there and now I’ve just got to go do it.”

MATT ROURKE/AP

Quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz throws a pass dur­ing train­ing camp. Wentz has worked through in­juries and is ready to lead the Ea­gles to suc­cess in 2019.

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