WENTZ IS ALL SETTLED IN AND READY TO GO
Carson Wentz thinks he has found it thanks to his strong, multilayered support system
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.”
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.