Doug Pederson

Carson Wentz participates in Eagles practice during OTAs

Carson Wentz participates in Eagles practice during OTAs

Just 5½ months after he tore up his knee in Los Angeles, Carson Wentz participated in Eagles practice Tuesday morning, firing passes to ballboys and assistant coaches in the first set of drills at the start of spring OTAs.

It looked like he hadn’t missed a day.

Wentz, wearing a brace on his injured left knee, participated only in individual drills and sat out the rest of practice.

But he looked comfortable and confident taking his drops, he delivered the football with his familiar zip and if it weren't for the brace you wouldn't have known he was coming back from a devastating injury.

It was a huge step for the 25-year-old quarterback, who was having an All-Pro 2017 season before he got hurt.

Does this mean he’ll be ready for opening day in 3½ months?

Still too early to tell. But just seeing him out on the practice field wearing a red No. 11 jersey and throwing the football around sure was encouraging.

“Mental aspect is probably just as important as the physical, I think, when you’re coming back from these injuries,” Wentz said before practice.

“I’m just learning how to trust it. Trust your knee, trust your movement, all of those things. And that comes over time, and every day it just gets a little better. A little more trust, a little more faith in it.

“At the same time, you’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to be smart with what the doctors are saying. But I feel like I’ve made really good strides mentally and physcally and I like where I’m at.”

The Eagles will open training camp in late July, so that’s about two months away. The first preseason game is Aug. 9, which is about 2½ months away. The regular-season opener is Sept. 6 against the Falcons at the Linc.

Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will take all the first-team reps this summer and then step aside whenever Wentz is ready (see observations).

Wentz said he’s tempted to play the calendar game — will he be ready in time for the Falcons? But he said for the most part he resists.

“You do sometimes, but at the end of the day you can’t get caught up in that,” he said.

“Even when you’re healthy — ‘OK, Week 1, you’ve got that circled,’ or whatever. It’s always just a one-day-at-a-time mentality and approach and especially now I’ve got to avoid getting ahead of myself.”

Wentz threw 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 13 games last year, going 11-2 before giving way to Foles, who led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title.

Wentz admits he’s antsy to get back to football but said he has to avoid the temptation to do too much too soon. 

“Any time you’re rehabbing from any sort of injury, you’ve got to be careful,” he said.

“There’s days you feel great and want to push it more and there’s days it’s a little sore, it’s a little tired, whatever, but it’s just part of the process of coming back from an injury. 

“You’ve just gotta trust what the trainers are saying, what the doctors are saying, and keep being smart with it.” 

Wentz is the leader of a large group of Eagles that finished last year on injured reserve and were forced to watch Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis from the sidelines. 

Jason Peters. Darren Sproles. Jordan Hicks. Chris Maragos. 

Wentz said that group’s hunger is going to help drive the entire team in 2018. 

“With injured guys, guys that didn’t get a chance to play in that game, there’s an extra sense of motivation, an extra sense of not letting everybody be complacent,” Wentz said. 

“On the flip side of that, I know the leaders that we have. I know the guys in that locker room, the character of that locker room, and I don’t expect it to be an issue regardless. I think any time we have the veteran leadership that we have, that’s not really a concern of mine or really the rest of the guys because nobody’s going to ever settle for anything around here.

“But I don’t think it hurts that we have the other guys like myself with a little chip on their shoulder, a little extra motivation to get back out there.”

Top Eagles storylines heading into OTAs

Top Eagles storylines heading into OTAs

Less than four months after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII in Minnesota, the whole team will be back together for the start of voluntary organized team activities on Tuesday. 

Eagles OTAs are from May 22-24, May 29, May 31-June 1 and June 4-7. After that, there’s a mandatory minicamp from June 12-14 before the long layoff leading into training camp in the summer. 

OTAs fall under Phase 3 of the 2011 CBA, which limits activity during this period. For the first time this spring, players are allowed to wear helmets for the 10 days of OTAs. The big difference between 2 and 3 is that now there can actually be some competition. While 1-on-1s aren’t allowed, team offense vs. team defense is finally OK with no contact. It’s not really football, but it’s something. 

Here are some storylines to watch over the next few weeks: 

No time off
Because the Eagles played into February, their offseason has been very short. It’s a good problem to have, of course, but it’s still a problem. This will be the first time the team is back together since the Super Bowl. Head coach Doug Pederson has been pretty vocal that he’d like to have all his players at these workouts, but they are voluntary by rule. 

“Look, this is a voluntary program. We know it,” Pederson said earlier this month. “I've been in touch with these guys and just staying on top of them and wishing they were here. But look, it's a voluntary program. These guys are veteran players. They know how to get themselves prepared.”

It’ll be up to Pederson to manage his veteran players in the spring and summer after the short offseason. His experience as a player should help him understand how important rest is after a deep playoff run. 

The new guys
The Eagles are back together, but the team doesn’t look exactly like the one that won last season's Super Bowl. Guys like Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Vinny Curry, LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson and Beau Allen are gone. 

And there are plenty of newcomers, including Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Mike Wallace, Matt Jones and others joining the team. 

The 2017 team had special chemistry. If the 2018 team has a chance to win a title, this group is going to need to mesh in a similar way. 

Unanswered questions 
Bennett is awaiting a criminal case for allegedly pushing an elderly paraplegic woman. Jay Ajayi is facing a lawsuit for allegedly trashing an L.A. mansion. Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Alshon Jeffery all had offseason surgery. 

Plenty to ask these guys. 

Still the starter
Carson Wentz has been amping up his rehab but he’s still not cleared for anything other than rehab, so all the first-team reps this spring are going to go to Nick Foles. Nate Sudfeld will get some extra work in his absence too. 

Trip to D.C.
Last week, we learned the Eagles were invited to the White House on June 5 and that they’re working on the logistics of a visit. One of the questions is about how many of their players will attend and what else they’re going to do while in D.C. June 5 is a practice day, so we’ll see how the Eagles handle that too. 

Pederson may lighten load for Eagles’ stars, vets in OTAs

Pederson may lighten load for Eagles’ stars, vets in OTAs

After an offseason shortened by an improbable Super Bowl run, and with so many players rehabbing injuries, Eagles coach Doug Pederson may decide to lighten the load on stars and veterans at OTAs.

The Eagles are scheduled to hold their first full-team practices of the offseason when phase three of OTAs begins next week, though the workouts will be “full-team” in name only. A number of players will be limited or held out entirely, many while working their way back from injuries, other possibly to limit fatigue.

During last Friday’s media availability, Pederson seemed to allude to a plan to ease certain players back into action on several occasions.

“It’s my job to protect them a little bit through this offseason,” said Pederson. “Obviously, we're not playing a game right now. So, it's my job to make sure that these guys are getting the work they need, but at the same time, getting them more prepared for training camp.”

It will be interesting to see who’s even ready to take the field for the Eagles once practices are underway. Carson Wentz, Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos sustained season-ending injuries in 2017, while Alshon Jeffery, Derek Barnett and Tim Jernigan underwent offseason surgeries.

Naturally, there’s no need to rush anybody back in May, particularly established veterans. The Eagles also may have constructed their roster in preparation of some of these absences well.

For example, signed by the Eagles two weeks ago, Markus Wheaton can provide an experienced presence on the practice field at wide receiver while Jeffery rehabs from shoulder surgery.

“It goes back to me kind of protecting some of the starters a little bit,” said Pederson. “Some of the guys, as we know, Alshon and his situation currently, and so having depth at that position helps us down the road.”

The Eagles aren’t necessarily focused solely on bringing rehabbing players along slowly, however. Pederson explicitly stated Jay Ajayi might be somebody who stands to benefit from fewer reps at OTAs.

“Jay is a guy that, going forward, I want to make sure that he's 100 percent and he's ready for the regular season and all those types of things down the road,” said Pederson.

Ajayi does have a chronic knee condition the Eagles have monitored since acquiring the running back in a trade last season, yet is by some definition healthy. That is to say if the NFL schedule did begin in May, he would be in uniform.

Ajayi’s might be a special case. Then again, it might not. Pederson chose to rest players with nagging injuries early and often in ‘17. Both Jeffery and Nick Foles routinely sat out of practices during training camp, and were always available whenever the Eagles truly needed them.

Could Pederson use maintenance days with more frequency in 2018, perhaps even extend the practice to players who are generally be considered healthy? It's not out of the question, and might be wise.

“It was a short offseason, as you guys know, and short for all of players and coaches, but obviously I'll take that any day,” said Pederson.

Of course the Eagles will take rings over the extra five weeks of rest and relaxation the majority of the NFL gets. But in terms of the team’s upcoming bid to repeat, Pederson would do well to weigh the potential negative consequences of fatigue versus the benefits of an occasion rest day for an established player.

It also sounds as if Pederson has already given it some serious thought, and as is often the case these days, might be ahead of the curve.