How injured Eagles are coping with missing Super Bowl

How injured Eagles are coping with missing Super Bowl

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Every night before Chris Maragos falls asleep, he lies in his bed and thinks about running onto the football field with his teammates in Super Bowl LII. 

He won't get to do that on Sunday. 

His season as a player ended way back on Oct. 12, when he suffered a knee injury in Carolina. But he's continued to be a part of the team. He's continued to be a leader and a captain. 

And he's not the only one. 

"Honestly, I'd like to say that it's not pretty difficult, but I'd be lying if I said it was," Maragos said. "Obviously, it's disappointing not playing, but when I came to this organization I wanted to do anything I could to help this team win. Right now, my role is to help these guys from a mentorship role, from an experience role. That's my way of contributing. 

"I think as you come in and you have special seasons like this, everyone has to lay aside their pride, everyone has to lay aside their own goals and aspirations for the team."

In addition to Maragos, the Eagles have also lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis, and, of course, Carson Wentz. Every single one of those injured players is in Minnesota for Super Bowl week and they'll be watching as their teammates try to take down the Patriots on Sunday. 

They'll be cheering, they'll be offering advice, they'll be doing the same type of supportive things they've been doing all season. But this is the big game and they won't get to play. 

What will it be like to watch the Super Bowl? 

"Tough, but amazing," Hicks said. "These guys deserve everything. They have worked as hard as any team and are as close as any team I've seen. I'm excited, man. I know they're prepared. They're going to go out there, play loose and play great."

Pretty much every key injured player said the same thing this week. Of course it's going to hurt like hell to miss out on playing in what would have been one of the biggest games of their lives. That's natural. 

"As humans, we all want to be the competitors that we are and be out there on the field," Wentz said. "Every time the offense comes on the field on Sunday, it's tough. It hits me a little bit. But then I'm in it. I love these guys and I'm a part of this team as much as anybody else. I get involved in the game and that kind of all goes away. Without a doubt, as humans, it just feels ... it's tough. It's tough to not be out there, but I love watching these guys and I couldn't be happier." 

All of the injured players have been incredibly selfless all season. They've helped their teammates with whatever they possibly could. They're in film rooms, they're on the phone offering advice, sometimes they watch practice. 

They've been around for the whole ride, even when they weren't able to play anymore. 

"We all get together," Peters said. "Wentz goes with the quarterbacks and Hicks has the linebackers and we just support everybody. Maragos got the special teams. Sproles got the running backs. And I take care of the offensive line. We have support with every group."

The injured players said it's been helpful to have other key guys in the same position. They're able to commiserate and lean on each other when the tougher times come. 

Hicks and Maragos have talked about it before when they have lunch together in the NovaCare Complex while everyone else is off working out and practicing. It would be a lot harder if they weren't together. 

And the season would be a lot harder on everyone if these key leaders didn't stay involved. Lucky for the Eagles, they did.  

"It's been difficult all year," Hicks said. "Can't sugarcoat it. It's been tough. But you roll with it and you learn from it and you try to find different ways to help. Your role changes and it is what it is. Right now my role is having a different perspective and sharing it. That's part of the leadership role. You go down but you're still a leader."

Dr. James Sanfilippo explains Carson Wentz's back injury

Dr. James Sanfilippo explains Carson Wentz's back injury

To gain some perspective on Carson Wentz’s back injury, we spoke with an expert.

Here’s our Q&A with Dr. James Sanfilippo, chief of the spine section and medical director at Virtua Brain and Spine Institute in Marlton, New Jersey, and an orthopedic spine surgeon with Reconstructive Orthopedics in Moorestown.

Sanfilippo is not treating Wentz but is a leading expert on the specific injury he suffered, a vertebral fracture.

Q: Can you give us some background on the injury Carson suffered and just some basics on how serious it is?
A: “There are non-operative vertebral, primary bones that stack in the back, separated by the discs. If they’re saying it’s a fracture, one of those blocks is compressed down a little bit. Which is very difficult to diagnose. Sometimes you don’t see it until the bone starts to heal, which could have been the delay in the CAT Scan (revealing a fracture). Picture a Rubik’s cube and the top is sort of compressed down a little bit. Sometimes you won’t see that or notice that on a CAT Scan or on other imaging until it starts to heal and you see other bone starts to develop around it. It’s either that or there are little projections of bone that come off to the sides or off to the back that help support some of the muscles.

If it’s one of those, you might also not see it until the same type of healing process (begins) or if the bone moves a little bit you can see it. Any of those are A) non-operative and B) are extremely irritating to the muscles in the back. So (you get) the muscle spasms, soreness, tightness, however you want to describe it. And all of them heal with time and none of them should be a permanent problem moving forward as far as A) re-injury or B) coming across difficulty moving forward. It’s just symptom management and time to heal.”

Q: What’s the treatment for an injury like this?
A: “Rest and gentle stretching to begin with and then going through the physical therapy and really getting back that full range of motion. But the first thing you need to do is let that inflammation subside and that’s the rest portion. And only he and the trainers and doctors treating him are going to know when he’s symptom-free to then begin to put him back through normal range of motion and normal workouts and eventually back into play.”

Q: What causes an injury like this?
A: “Usually, these type of injuries are impact related. They’re not related to repetitive motion or repetitive stress. When you think of the healthy professional athlete and non-operative, it’s usually one of these types of injuries. Impact or trauma.”

Q: Could Carson play right now?
A: “I think the biggest risk is continually irritating it and having pain and muscle spasms and soreness and then the question is, does that pain and soreness affect his play on the field? And then how long do you prolong those symptoms and prolong the recovery afterwards by playing through it?”

Q: How long a recovery time are we looking at?
A: “You’re looking at (a few) weeks type of range. The biggest problem right now is how long is the Eagles’ season? If there’s a playoffs involved and they make a deep run in the playoffs, can he come back? I don’t see a reason why not if he’s symptom-free. If it’s just regular season, is he able to be symptom-free and get back on the field and do everything he wants to do at 100 percent in a couple weeks after this (Rams) game? That becomes a question.”

Q: How long does it take for the actual fracture to heal?
A: “To fully heal, a fracture can be anywhere from six to nine months, so you’re not really waiting for the fracture itself to heal solid. What you’re waiting for is the symptoms (to stop). You’re waiting for the body to stabilize it so there’s no motion of the bone. That means no inflammation. No inflammation means no muscle spasms and you can get back into motion.”

Q: Carson initially had symptoms in October. Why wouldn’t the fracture appear on a scan back then?
“Some of these fractures are slight enough that you don’t see them until they start to heal and start to form more bone around them. Then all of a sudden you start to see on repeat scans, ‘Oh wait a second, there might have been something here, because now we’re seeing healing.’ Not being privy to the studies that were done, it’s speculation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it showed nothing six weeks ago and now it shows a fracture.”

Q: So what you see on the scan isn’t the fracture?
A: “Exactly. We call it bony callous. That’s where bone starts to form around the fracture to stabilize it. Often, that’s what we’re seeing.”

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Jordan Matthews says back injury has been affecting Carson Wentz

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Jordan Matthews says back injury has been affecting Carson Wentz

While Carson Wentz’s back injury has taken center stage this week as he’s missed practice and his season could reportedly be over, it’s not a new problem. 

And one of his best friends on the Eagles thinks it had been affecting Wentz for at least some time this season. Wearing a red, white and blue AO1 shirt on Thursday afternoon, Jordan Matthews wouldn’t speculate how long Wentz’s back injury has bothered him, but said he knew it was. 

“He’s one of the toughest dudes I know, but of course it’s going to affect him,” Matthews said. 

A recent CT scan revealed a fracture in Wentz’s back, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark confirmed Thursday. But Wentz’s back issue dates back to at least October. 

Wentz first appeared on the injury report on Oct. 17. He was limited in practice for consecutive Wednesdays before the Panthers and Jaguars games heading into the bye week. 

He has played every snap in all seven games since first appearing on the injury report. But Matthews said, as one of his best friends on the team, he knew the injury was affecting the franchise quarterback. 

Of course, you gotta be somewhat affected. I think you can just look at the quarterback position, you’re going through reads. You have to be able to twist, you have to be able to turn. Carson is probably the best quarterback also throwing off the run, so that affects your running too. He’s wearing a knee brace. This guy is playing through a lot. Do I think it affected him? Of course. Do I know exactly how? I’m not going to speculate on that. What I’m definitely saying is what, he still (has) 20 touchdowns, less than 10 interceptions? That’s still high level production with an injury.

Let’s take a look at Wentz’s production this season: 

Here’s a look at his first four games before appearing on the injury report: 68 percent completion percentage, 1,192 yards (292 per game), 8 touchdowns, 1 interceptions, 104.7 passer rating

And his seven games since hitting the injury report: 70 percent completion percentage, 1,882 yards (269 per game), 13 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 100.5 rating. 

It’s a small sample size, but there was at least a very slight drop-off in his level of play, though it’s hard to see it. And it’s going to be hard to know just how exactly the injury affected Wentz until he gets to talk for himself. Zach Ertz said on Wednesday that Wentz wants to speak to reporters. But until he does, we have to take Matthews’ word for it. 

Wentz was at practice on Thursday, even though he didn’t participate. He was engaging with teammates and made sure to stay with the quarterbacks during drills. 

“Carson, he’s going to handle this like a champ,” Matthews said. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he’s the best young quarterback in the league, I think hands down. He was even playing at a high level with what he was dealing with. I don’t know if you know, going through reads, it helps to have a healthy back. He was still going out there and producing at a high level with the injury. 

“I think obviously with this situation right now, sitting now, I don’t think it’s affecting his confidence at all. He knows who he is. He knows what he brings to the table and he knows what he means to this team. It just sucks that he can’t play right now, but he’s still out there communicating, we’re talking on the sideline and in between periods. He’s still the same guy, great teammate.”

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