Carson Wentz did his best to downplay the drama.
In his first year as the Commanders’ quarterback, Wentz will face off against the Eagles on Sunday for the first time since the two sides parted ways in a messy divorce after the 2020 season.
This game has to come with some extra emotion, right?
“We’ll find out,” Wentz said to reporters in Washington.
It seems pretty unavoidable.
After all, Wentz was never just one of 53 players on the Eagles’ roster during his five years in Philly. He was handpicked to be the franchise quarterback and actually lived up to it at first. He played at an MVP level during his second season before tearing his ACL and was forced to watch his backup lead a parade down Broad Street. Even after that, Wentz returned and played fairly well, but things began to unravel as questions about his leadership, accountability and coachability surfaced more and more frequently before his level of play plummeted.
Eventually, Wentz was benched at the tail end of the 2020 season for Jalen Hurts and then he wanted out. The Eagles obliged, shipping him to Indianapolis for what became a first-round pick.
After just one year in Indy, Wentz was moved again and is back in the NFC East, getting what is perhaps his last chance to be a starter in the NFL.
When asked if this game is providing any extra motivation for Wentz, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera quickly said no. He said if there is, Wentz is hiding it from the team well.
“You try not to make the game bigger than it needs to be,” Wentz said. “Every week is a big week.”
When asked what he thought went wrong in Philly, Wentz adeptly sidestepped the question like we used to see him sidestep pass rushers.
“I don’t know,” Wentz answered. “That’s a big question that I’ve probably answered many times. I’m thankful to be here now. I’m excited for this one.”
The real answer to that question is a long one. There was fault on both sides, but even Wentz casually admitted on Wednesday that the could have been a better person and teammate during his time with the Eagles.
In a lot of ways, the Eagles in 2022 are a very different team than the one Wentz left in 2020. But there are still plenty of players on this roster who were once teammates with No. 11.
A few of them will finally get a chance to tackle him on Sunday.
“I know I’ve probably played some quarterbacks who have been here before but not like this situation,” Brandon Graham said. “This situation with him, the way it ended, with him being here, with how things went, I feel like some guys just had this game circled. … It’s the first time I’ve seen him since he’s been gone. So we’re going to do what we need to do.”
Wentz is off to a pretty good start in Washington. He has already thrown for 650 yards with 6 touchdowns in two games, but he’s also thrown 3 interceptions. As we’ve seen from him in recent years, Wentz makes some unbelievable plays but some horrible ones too.
There were even some moments in his one season in Indianapolis where we saw glimpses of the player Wentz once was.
“The thing about Carson is he still has the arm talent,” Fletcher Cox said. “He’s still making throws down the field, making guys miss. He’s still slippery when it comes to ducking blocks and making guys miss. I think the biggest thing for us is to focus on our game plan, not just focus so much on Carson.”
For as bad as things ended in Philly, there really were some good times, especially in 2017. Wentz was incredible that year and was a huge reason why the Eagles started that season with an 11-2 record and earned the top seed in the NFC. He wasn’t on the field in Super Bowl LII but he was a big part of the first Super Bowl-winning team in Eagles history.
“It was a lot of fun,” Wentz said. “Obviously, we had a lot of success there. Winning the Super Bowl up there was pretty special, being a part of that was pretty cool. It’s quite the city, quite the fanbase, quite the experience. One I’ll definitely cherish my time there.”
Even the next two years, Wentz threw 48 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. But injuries were an issue. When he finally got to a playoff game in 2019, he lasted just a few snaps before he was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Wentz and the Commanders won’t make their trip to Philadelphia until Week 10 for a Monday night game. That will be Wentz’s true homecoming in Philly.
But this weekend, the homecoming is coming to him.
In recent years, Eagles fans have really taken over FedExField. Maybe the fact that the matchup is so early this year might prevent that, but Wentz is ready for whatever the split looks like on Sunday.
“It’ll be fun,” Wentz said. “I do know it is exciting playing at home here. Week 1 was a lot of fun being home there at FedEx. I’m sure the Eagles fans will travel well like they always do. But hopefully we’re still dominating the stands there. Either way, it’ll be fun.”
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