The NFL starts all over, now that Super Bowl LIII is finished a new champion is crowned. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz likes the sound of that.
Starting over. Every team is 0-0. Every player has a new canvas. The future is limitless.
We’re in February. NFL players have between now and April to get themselves right and report to their respective teams’ offseason conditioning programs. Wentz is excited. There’s no doubt about that. The last 14 months have not been easy – the knee injury, the long and arduous rehab, the “roller coaster” of a season when he returned, and then a back injury to end his 2018 campaign.
A fresh start sounds really, really welcomed.
“I feel good and we’re just gonna keep building this progression to finally get rid of this back injury and get past it,” Wentz says as he settles into his high-top chair at the NovaCare Complex.
We’re in the auditorium as Wentz settles in and outlines his offseason agenda, which includes his Second Annual Audience Of One Foundation Charity Softball Game, scheduled for May 31 at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia. Tickets go on sale on February 7.
”I’m excited for April when we finally get back together. That’s always a fun time," he says. "The next couple of months, they’re filled with just keep building this progression and rehab through, although with some other foundation-type things that are fun going on and then a trip here and there just to get a little time away from the game a little bit. It’s exciting.”
Wentz has had a lot going on, as all quarterbacks do, but his focus is on improving himself on the field (timing in the offense and with his receiving corps, mostly) and off the field (spiritually, looking inward to make himself better). He is in a great mood knowing that he’s got a bright, successful NFL career in front of him and a long life to go with the profession.
He is spending much of his time at the NovaCare Complex now working on the stress fracture that ended his regular season three games short. The Eagles turned a 6-7 record into a postseason run with three straight wins to end the regular season and then went two rounds deep in the postseason.
The focus is on building from the turnaround as Wentz reflects back on the Eagles’ season and his performance.
“Just like the record was, and how the season was, it was a roller coaster for the team and it was a roller coaster for me just trying to get back from (the knee) injury,” he said. “Missing the first two (games), then playing and then missed the last few, emotionally, kind of a roller coaster for me and I know for the team as well. We were so close in a handful of games and we had that losing record and we turned it on at the end and I wasn’t playing, so it was a combination of a lot of emotions going on.
"It was really cool to see the guys kind of just rally around each other and find ways to win games late in the year. We came up a little short there at the end, but I thought it was a great sign of resiliency that the guys showed to get into the playoffs and do something.
“I’ve learned so much personally, spiritually through these things and I’ve been challenged and stretched in a lot of different ways, so hopefully it’s behind me and I can use what I’ve learned from it to hopefully have a long, successful career.”
Next year will be his fourth in the NFL, and boy, does it seem like Wentz has seen just about everything in such a short period of time.
He’s a smart guy. He wants to be better in every way. He is challenging himself. He’s going to make plans to hopefully get away with some teammates – at a site and time to be determined – and he’ll split his time between North Dakota and Philadelphia in this offseason (Philadelphia mostly, he says). Wentz wants to get away from the game enough to exhale and relax, and then it will be back to the grind. He loves the work. He loves the challenge. Wentz, more than anything, loves the competition.
As far as specific improvement goes, Wentz is working on healing his back and making sure the knee is all the way healthy. From a football standpoint, it’s all about precision.
“In terms of football specifically, just timing. Getting back in the swing of things with the guys and, again, getting that full offseason of timing and working together, just kind of the whole experience all the way through in the meeting room that I missed last offseason,” Wentz said. “I always have high expectations. I always hold myself to a high standard and I think the guys do as well and this organization does. I always just feel like the sky is the limit. We don’t fully know exactly what the roster is going to look like and all those things. But I’m excited. I’m excited to get back to work and start building this thing again and, again, I think the sky is the limit.”
Having a full offseason to train, rather than rehab a serious knee injury, will be a great benefit for Wentz. He’ll be on the field for the Organized Team Activities, building chemistry and camaraderie with his teammates on and off the field. Wentz was named by his teammates the recipient of the Eagles’ 2018 Ed Block Courage Award. The locker room recognized the hard work and dedication Wentz put into his rehab. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright rigorous and lonely and difficult.
This offseason is going to be much different. This offseason allows Wentz to move forward in every way.
“It’s going to help me tremendously,” Wentz said. "I just think back to my rookie year and having that full offseason all the way through Training Camp. That’s where I think a lot of work is done. Unfortunately, I missed a lot of that last year and hopefully, I never have to miss that stuff again. It’s such crucial work and I’m excited for it.”
There’s that word again. Excited. You can feel it when you’re around Wentz. You hear it when he speaks. You see it in the way he carries himself in the hallways of the NovaCare Complex. He’s got a fresh start. We all do. A new season is here. Everybody starts 0-0, just the way Wentz wants it.