Carson Wentz agrees he wasn't 'back to normal' in 2018 after knee surgery

Carson Wentz agrees he wasn't 'back to normal' in 2018 after knee surgery

If you watched the Eagles in 2018 and didn’t think Carson Wentz looked like he was back to his MVP-level form after returning from a torn ACL and LCL in less than 10 months, you’re not alone. 

Wentz didn’t feel like he was back all the way either. 

“It’s a process. As far as injury prevention, I felt great, I felt confident, all those things,” Wentz said in front of a small group of reporters last Thursday. “But as far as being explosive, and all those things, I never quite — and I’m not going to use it as an excuse, by any means — but I watched the tape from two years ago, you watched last year. You can see, I just wasn’t quite there with mobility stuff and that’s something that I’ll just keep working through. 

“And everyone kind of says it’s an 18-month, two-year thing to get really feeling strong again and back to normal. It’s getting better and it’s going to keep getting better. I don’t think we’ll worry about hopefully either of these injuries going forward.”  

At times during the 2018 season, we saw glimpses of the guy who was well on his way to winning the MVP trophy in his second season, but overall, he wasn’t as explosive. He didn’t make as many “wow” plays with his legs. And, really, we probably all should have expected it. 

In August, I chatted with former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer, who returned from two severe ACL tears during his pro career (see story). And his words began to echo in my head this season, when I realized Wentz didn’t quite look like the same guy. 

Here’s what Palmer said to me in the summer: 

"It’s all a feel thing. That confidence comes from how it feels to step into a throw or how it feels to really push off and explode off of that leg. It takes 18 months to where your knee feels somewhat normal again. It takes two years until you can’t really tell that you had surgery on it. So that first year, it just doesn’t feel right.” 

That was just the reality of Wentz’s 2018 season. 

And Wentz, just after the season ended, said he couldn’t rule out that the stress fracture in his back was somehow connected to playing with a surgically repaired left knee. 

It’s not that Wentz rushed back, either. There’s a difference between being healthy enough to play, to the point of not risking further injury and being 100 percent back to how things were before the injury. Nine and a half months wasn’t enough time to get to that point. The hope is that come the start of the 2019 season, around 21 months from the initial knee injury, Wentz will be closer to his old self. 

For now, Wentz is still nursing that back fracture. He basically is just waiting for it to heal before resuming football activities, but his plan is to be ready for spring workouts in a couple months. Doug Pederson initially said the timeframe was three months to completely heal. That would put him around mid-March. 

“I’m excited,” Wentz said. “I’m excited to put all this behind me, the injuries, and do everything I can just to be healthy, stay healthy and get back in this driver’s seat. I’m excited for where this team’s at.” 

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Let the Cowboys have their little Thanksgiving game

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Let the Cowboys have their little Thanksgiving game

The Eagles proposed a rule change that would have stripped the Cowboys or Lions of their annual Thanksgiving home games, only to withdraw the proposal presumably because it received about as much support as Donovan McNabb for the Hall of Fame.

The proposal, which would’ve allowed the Cowboys and Lions to continue playing in their holiday slots as long as one of them goes on the road, wasn’t intended as an inconsequential dig at a loathsome NFC East rival and a conference foe. Each year, the NFL gifts a legitimate scheduling advantage to the Cowboys and Lions, forcing their opponents to travel to Dallas or Detroit on a short week — a hardship they are almost never asked to endure themselves — all because tradition.

It’s not fair. Since 2006, the Eagles have played five Thursday away games on short rest, while the Cowboys have played zero. Nobody cares about the Lions.

Based on the Eagles’ withdrawal, nobody really cares about this inequity, either — mildly surprising given the sometimes painstaking lengths the NFL continually goes to balance the schedule.

Then again, I also don’t care. In fact, I’m actively hoping it never changes.

Has anybody truly considered the can of worms this rule would open? As the tradition stands now, the league cycles different teams through Dallas and Detroit to maintain some semblance of fairness. The Eagles have played only two Thanksgiving afternoon games since 1989, which for any human being with responsibilities beyond watching football, is kind of nice. But if any team can suddenly host an afternoon game on Thanksgiving, the Eagles’ chances of interrupting dinner skyrockets.

The Eagles, as an organization, love playing on holidays because of the extra attention. I, on the other hand, personally appreciate the fact that the Cowboys and Lions play on Thanksgiving because, frankly, they’re usually irrelevant teams and I don’t feel the need to catch every second of the games. Football is great, and I watch as much as I can, just in between stuffing my face and spending time with loved ones.

For many Cowboys fans — and maybe Lions fans, too, I guess — Thanksgiving has become their Super Bowl, since the team doesn’t play in the actual big game anymore. They plan their entire get-togethers around watching Dallas with that insufferable grandpop who’s responsible for the family’s misplaced fandom.

It’s a tradition I’m all too happy not to share in on a regular basis. (And won’t somebody please think of the sportswriters who have to work that day?!)

As I get older, I’ve increasingly learned to accept the rules of the game are whatever they are at a given time. They’re constantly changing, and maybe they don’t always make the most sense or aren’t the most just, but teams must find a way to win within the parameters — and they do, all the time.

There’s no doubt the rules are tilted ever-so-slightly in favor of the Cowboys and the Lions in this case, and the Eagles aren’t wrong to mention it. But I’m glad they lost this battle and I hope they continue to do so, because I don’t need any more Eagles games on the holidays than there already are.

Besides, it’s not like the Thanksgiving games have really been hugely beneficial to the Cowboys in recent years, or the Lions ever.

Eagles mailbag: Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi, early-round RBs

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Eagles mailbag: Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi, early-round RBs

I’ll be in Phoenix next week for the owners meetings, where we’ll hear from the Eagles’ brass for the first time after all of their moves this offseason. 

But until then, you guys had plenty of questions. 

As always, we got too many for one mailbag, so we split them up. Here’s the first batch: 

I don’t think so. I understand the the cornerback room is crowded, especially after the Eagles brought back Ronald Darby. They have Darby, Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc. But Jones is the one I definitely wouldn’t trade. I know his first real season in the NFL didn’t go as planned, but he was pretty much a rookie last year and he got hurt. I’m nowhere near ready to give up on Jones. There’s a reason he was a first-round talent, there’s a reason the Eagles still drafted him in the second round in 2017 despite the Achilles tear. 

And you have to remember this: Jones is entering his third NFL season but he’s still just 22 and he has a modest cap hit of $1.67 million in 2019. Even next year, he still counts less than $2 million toward the cap. The Eagles owe it to themselves and Jones to find out if he can live up to his potential.  

Good question, but one that’s hard to answer until we actually have a better sense of who will be on the roster. The Eagles are in better shape when it comes to kick returners. They can have Wendell Smallwood or Corey Clement do it. Even Nelson Agholor can be an emergency kick returner. 

Punt returner? That’s a little trickier. The only guy on the team who returned last year with any regularity was Clement and he wasn’t very good at it. In big moments, DeSean Jackson can be the punt returner, but he hasn’t been an every-time returner in a few years. Maybe Nelly can do it; maybe Braxton Miller if he’s on the roster. There’s also a chance the Eagles’ 2019 punt returner isn’t on the roster yet. 

He’s rehabbing from that ACL injury. He reportedly had a visit set up with the Colts and head coach Frank Reich. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Eagles bring him back on a cheap deal. I don’t think teams are going to line up to break the bank for him. There were already serious concerns about Ajayi’s knees before the ACL injury. He is a good fit in the locker room and the Eagles should have inside knowledge of his recovery. If the Eagles want to bring him back and then draft a running back to complement him, that’s not a terrible option. Which brings us to this … 

I do. I really do. The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first or second round since LeSean McCoy since 2009, so their recent history says they won’t. But I think this is the year to buck that trend. I’m not sold on the idea of them taking one at 25, but with two second-round picks (53 and 57), things are lining up nicely for them to take one of the running backs who will be second-round picks. I have my eye on Miles Sanders from Penn State or David Montgomery from Iowa State. I think either one would be exactly what the Eagles need. 

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