We'll begin here, because that's the narrative on this day when quarterback Carson Wentz is sitting with the reporters who cover the Eagles daily, and as much as Wentz only wants to look forward – and that's a lot – he's still answering questions about the past. And those questions largely start and stop with injuries that prematurely ended his 2017 and 2018 seasons.
What has, the question is, the mental hurdle been like to overcome in relation to the physical rehabilitation that came with the injuries? Was it, in fact, a larger challenge mentally?
"At times, you could say that. Obviously, physically, last year just looking at the knee, and everything about the knee (2017 injury) and I'm back there (in the pocket) wearing the brace, getting used to that and everything about that. It was a different element than coming back from a back injury (2018), from the training and the recovery the more 'unknown' type of thing," Wentz said. "The mental side of it, I think for me, the journey I've been on, ending the last two seasons on the bench and everything that's come with that, from the criticism, from everything about it, has allowed me to just kind of find freedom in this game again and not press and not put so much pressure on myself and let the stress just kind of fade away and just go play."
That's what Wentz wants. He wants to "just go play." But injuries the last two seasons took away his "play" and, yeah, Wentz admits, he started to press and the game was "more stressful." The back injury last season, Wentz said, gave him chance to step back and embrace his faith and "see a bigger picture."
OK, so there's that. That's the past. The injuries and the criticism – all of that is in the past. Wentz said he started to "hear those voices a little bit" and he "let it all go."
So, Wentz is "free." That's his word. He's looking forward, and he sees a bright, wonderful picture.
Wentz keeps using the word "excited." He's "excited" to see what a high-octane Eagles offense can accomplish in 2019. He is "excited" to get back on the field, starting Sunday against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field, as the team's starting quarterback. He knows the entire team is "excited" to see how it all comes together after a busy-as-can-be offseason that saw the team address every nook and cranny of the roster and build enviable depth and talent.
Excited. Exciting. Excitement.
It all starts against the NFC East-rival Redskins and it represents a new beginning for Wentz and the reloaded Eagles, a team that won a playoff spot in 2018 in the season's final week and then won at Chicago before narrowly losing at New Orleans. For Wentz, who missed that stretch run after landing on the Injured Reserve list in December, the kickoff to '19 just can't come quickly enough.
"I think we're all excited. You know, I think it's been a long offseason as it always is," Wentz said. "And you know, not fully having all the ones (starters) out there in the preseason, I think we're all just really chomping at the bit to get out there Week 1 at the Linc. And I think everyone's really excited because we know we have a lot of talent, we know we have the ability to do something special, but it's going to take us executing, putting it together on the field. So that's really the word I for me personally, and for this whole thing.
"Everyone's just super excited and ready to get this thing rolling."
Life is great for Wentz and, in turn, life is great for the Eagles. The two sides came together in the offseason to strike a deal for a new contract that keeps Wentz in Philadelphia through the 2024 season, with great things on the horizon. Wentz has a new calm, a high level of confidence, and he worked through an offseason taking all of the practice reps as the starter. He has "leaned out" with a new diet and, yeah, he just feels great.
"I love what we're doing here with way the offense is structured and the players who are here, the coaching staff that we have," said Wentz, the team's first-round draft pick in 2016 and who, after only three seasons, ranks sixth in franchise history in passing yards (10,152), seventh in touchdown passes (70), and second in passer rating (92.5). "We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us. We're all in it together."
Wentz is the leader of the pack as the franchise quarterback, holding the reins of an offense that has weapons all over. The wide receiver corps headed by Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor is among the league's best. The 1-2 punch at tight end with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert is unmatched. The running back room is deep and talented and versatile, and the offensive line is one of the game's best.
Everything is there for team success.
"We have the pieces and it's my job to get the ball to the playmakers and let them do their jobs," Wentz said. "Nothing comes easily in this game. We know that defenses are going to gear up to beat us. I love that challenge."
The expectations are high, the pressure is welcomed and significant, and the season is here. Maybe, then, Wentz is right on point when he uses the word "excited." Is there any better way to describe what everybody feels about the season ahead?