PHILADELPHIA >> Carson Wentz, his surgically repaired left knee and 11-on-11 practices don’t mix.
Going forward the Eagles quarterback will be limited to the less ambitious 7-on-7 settings until further notice, casting doubt on his personal timetable to be ready for the season opener, just five weeks away.
“I don’t need to see him in 11-on-11 drills right now,” head coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. “He’s progressing extremely well. I don’t want to subject him to any kind of a setback or anything like that. I want to keep him progressing and moving forward. Those couple of days (in 11-on-11s) that we had with him were very exciting, very encouraging for me.”
That inches Nick Foles closer to starting Sept. 6 when the Eagles begin defense of their Super Bowl title against the Atlanta Falcons, at Lincoln Financial Field. Luckily the game is Thursday, not Sunday. The upcoming SNF promos feature Wentz, not Super Bowl MVP Foles, as the Eagles’ quarterback. But that’s another story for another day.
For the first time in his rehab from a torn ACL and LCL, Wentz sounded like his objective to regain the starting job by Week 1 was in jeopardy. It would be a grim reality for the young man who watched Foles win the Lombardi Trophy.
“I’m sticking to my goal,” Wentz said after practice. “Again, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty what it’s going to be but I’m sticking to my goal. The hope is Week 1 but it’s a fluid process and we’ll see as we get going.”
Wentz moved so well in the 11-on-11 action with live contact Saturday that reporters tripped over each other making shameless claims about how he was all the way back from the injury that occurred Dec. 10.
Wentz said he felt fine physically during the Saturday action. He sidestepped a question about working through the swelling.
“Obviously the plays, they weren’t all perfect,” Wentz said. “We’ve got work to do there. That’s part of camp. But from the physical and health standpoint I felt great.”
Pederson was his usual vague self when asked for details about the rehab plan for Wentz, calling it a collaborative effort among the player, coaching and medical staffs. Throttling down a guy who’s already cleared a hurdle is an issue Pederson was uncomfortable explaining in the bitter humidity.
“When the time comes, we’ll put him back out there,” Pederson said.
Wentz indicated the Eagles were worried about the 11-on-11 setting. With contact, it’s as close as you can get to game action. He said his rehab has been a fluid process since the beginning. It sure seems like the plan changed.
“My understanding is coaches and trainers and everybody just want to stay in a more controlled environment,” Wentz said. “Right now, that’s where we’re at. I haven’t been cleared for contact so I know that’s kind of part of the reason. They just want to keep me out of those. They want to stay in more controlled environments right now.”
At some point Wentz will be cleared for contact, although the red jersey he wears is a warning sign he’s not to be touched. To be the quarterback he wants to be, the guy who threw a club record 33 touchdown passes in just 13 games last season, Wentz will need some more 11-on-11s.
“I felt good when I did do it, I want to be out there, I want to do it,” Wentz said. “But again, I’ve just got to trust their plan with it.”
While Wentz steps back, so to speak, Foles already has his game face on. The veteran said training camp was the time to experiment with different throws, velocities, arm angles, working the pocket and building relationships.
“You don’t just step on a field and win,” Foles said. “It’s about relationships, putting your pride to the side, going in that locker room right now, spending time with guys in the cold tub, getting to know them as people, practicing with them during training camp when there’s a lot of humidity, going through those dog days of it all. That’s where you build on the DNA and the relationships of this team to where once the season hits, those relationships and the trust you gain out here go into effect. So, it’s super valuable.”
Foles is so focused he doesn’t know how his national best-selling biography “Believe It” is doing.
“I talk to my wife maybe once a day at night before I go to bed and that’s about it,” Foles said. “This is training camp. I miss my wife and daughter and dog but if I don’t talk to them, I’m not going to (take time to) know how my book’s doing. This is season time now.”
There you have it. Foles is locked in on football while Wentz is locked out of 11-on-11s.
Good news and bad news in the red zone Wednesday.
Foles and rookie tight end Dallas Goedert looked as unstoppable as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl.
Foles connected for scores twice with the 6-5, 256-pound tight end, who beat Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod. Goedert beat Darby a second time but couldn’t hold on to the ball.
“Dallas is really coming along as a rookie,” Foles said. “We’ve got some big guys who can really use their bodies. As a quarterback when you have tight ends that are big and physical and run routes and have that catching radius it always helps you in the red zone.”
The bad news obviously is the inability of the Eagles’ sawed-off defensive backs to cover big tight ends.
Every team the Eagles play this season has a big playmaking tight end, the list composed of Greg Olsen (Panthers), Evan Engram (Giants), O.J. Howard (Bucs) and Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), among others.