While most of his teammates walked on to the practice field today just before noon, Carson Wentz walked out of the NovaCare Complex and broke into a brisk jog.
He was pretty excited.
Because not only was this the first practice of the 2018 training camp, it was also time for him to check off another box in his recovery. For the first time this offseason, Wentz participated in full-team 11-on-11 drills. It was a light practice Thursday as the camp kicked off, but Wentz was under center in full-team drills for the first time since tearing his ACL and LCL back on Dec. 10.
The final remaining hurdle for Wentz is to get cleared for contact. With six weeks until his goal return, Week 1 against the Falcons, that’s the only thing standing in his way.
“That’ll be the next step," Wentz said, "the next goal."
That will come in time, but on Thursday, it wasn’t hard to see the progress. During spring practices, the Eagles limited Wentz to individual and 7-on-7 drills, which ensure there will be absolutely no chance of a player inadvertently landing on or running into the quarterback. In 11-on-11s, there are linemen battling right in front of the QB. Wentz said he did things to prepare for that during his rehab (like drills where they throw tennis balls at the quarterbacks) but getting reps with real linemen in front of him is a bigger deal.
So the fact that Wentz was able to get out there for them today — albeit briefly — is a great sign. And it went really well.
Wentz acknowledged he didn’t get a ton of work, but “felt great.” He's also getting used to that brace on his left knee after a little trial and error.
“I thought he was comfortable,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He did some nice things today. It was obviously very limited. We didn’t do too much. I think we had 30 offensive plays. It was a good start for everybody.”
While Nick Foles took first-team reps and Wentz worked with the second team, Pederson and Wentz indicated they expect Wentz to eventually get worked in with the first team. Earlier in the spring, Pederson said the two quarterbacks would split those reps.
It might seem somewhat surprising that Wentz was able to participate in 11-on-11 drills the day after a report from NFL Network surfaced about the possibility of Wentz starting training camp on the PUP, which wouldn’t have allowed him to practice at all. Wentz said he never had conversations about that possibility and Pederson said he had “no idea where that came from.”
Throughout Wentz’s rehab, the Eagles have been unwilling to talk about any sort of timetable. That hasn’t changed. But now the clock is ticking a little louder. The Eagles play their first preseason game in two weeks and they’ll open the NFL season in exactly six weeks on Sept. 6.
“We’ve got a lot of time,” Pederson said when asked when they’d need to shift their focus from Wentz’s rehab to preparing for Week 1. “Six weeks is a lot of time. … I can’t tell you exactly when that’s going to be in camp, but it’s going to be … I’m not going to push him. He and I are married to this deal. His longterm health, obviously, I want him to have success in this league for a long, long time and I want to make sure it’s right. It’s hard to say when that time is.”
Wentz didn’t want to discuss a timeframe either. He said he’s been happy with their plan of attack and hasn’t wavered from his goal of being ready for the opener. I wouldn’t expect him to see much — if any — action in the preseason. It's all about the games that matter.
When asked when he would need to be cleared for contact in order to be able to play in the opener, Wentz said Sept. 6, the day of that first game. It seems pretty clear that whenever Wentz is cleared to play, he’s going to play.
For now, the Eagles are going to remain patient. But Eagles fans should certainly be happy knowing Wentz checked off another huge milestone in his rehab today. Just one more to go.