Wentz can’t stom­ach team­mate’s trash talk

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

It’s Dal­las week and the NFC East lead is at stake. Time to pull it to­gether.

Car­son Wentz had a golden op­por­tu­nity Thurs­day to stand up in sup­port of Ea­gles team­mate Kamu GrugierHill. All the QB had to do was say he wouldn’t have used the ver­biage Grugier-Hill did to trash the Cow­boys, who the Ea­gles op­pose Sun­day, but that he has the back of his line­backer.

In­stead, Wentz dis­tanced him­self from the man who, in an ex­citable mo­ment, said the Cow­boys have a his­tory of chok­ing and would do just that Sun­day.

“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. Head coach Doug Ped­er­son wishes it hadn’t hap­pened. He tried to defuse it dur­ing a con­fer­ence call with Cow­boys me­dia. It’s an iso­lated event. GrugierHill is a solid ci­ti­zen, a total team player and well­liked by col­leagues in the locker room.

Ea­gles de­fen­sive end Chris Long, the Ea­gles’ Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of the Year nom­i­nee, made the me­dia smile Thurs­day when asked if GrugierHill’s out­burst made their jobs eas­ier. Then he got se­ri­ous.

“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 also is to­tally in the cor­ner of Grugier-Hill. It’s

not Jenk­ins’ style to trash talk pub­licly but he’s heard much worse in the heat of com­pe­ti­tion. He’s got KGH’s back.

Why Wentz dis­missed the chance to stand to stand tall is a puz­zler. 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 play­ers roll with their in­stincts and lead by ex­am­ple.

Ea­gles play­ers kept it real Thurs­day with a locker room prank. Wide re­cei­iver Shel­ton Gib­son hid his face with tow­els and 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, a mob of re­porters in tow. Gib­son sat down with his back to the pack, the mi­cro­phones en­cir­cling him. He couldn’t stay in char­ac­ter, ris­ing and walk­ing away with a big smile while team­mates shot smart phone video.

But back to Wentz. He showed courage in his sec­ond sea­son with the Ea­gles when good friend Jor­dan Matthews was dealt to the Buf­falo Bills for cor­ner­back Ronald Darby.

“It’s one of those things where there’s the per­sonal side of things and the foot­ball side of things,” Wentz said. “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 it to cham­pi­onships, 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.”

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