PHILADELPHIA — Carson Wentz has a bit of white sunscreen lotion on the top of his ear, a stubborn dollop that evaded him when he rubbed in the rest. The heat is relentless at Citizens Bank Park; it’s 86 degrees, the air is thick with humidity and there’s no shade along the first baseline. Still, Wentz is in his usual cheery mood, even though this is his third consecutive interview in the sun.
In just a few hours, his AO1 Foundation will host its first charity softball game, raising money for several projects, including building a youth sports complex in Haiti. For most Eagles fans, it will be the first time they’ve seen their franchise quarterback since the fateful Week 14 game in Los Angeles when he tore his ACL and MCL.
In the nearly six months since, Wentz has been strictly positive when discussing the injury publically. He repeats over and over that this injury is part of God’s plan and he’s learning valuable lessons from the process. He is known for crediting his Christian faith for his success, and his catchphrase might as well be, “God willing.” God willing, he will be ready to play Week 1 of the 2018 season, which would be a few days short of the nine-month mark since his surgery, the average ACL recovery period. But even Wentz admits he’s had moments where he’s struggled to rise above the frustration of being injured. “I have lots of bad days, honestly,” he says. “As a human, as a competitor, not being out there post-injury, having to watch from the sidelines in the Super Bowl—that’s something that you dream of as a kid, playing in that game.”
The toughest of those days were always Sundays. “Sundays at kickoff, just walking out to that coin flip, I was proud to be a captain and still be out there with the guys, but walking out there with a cane or crutches or a brace on, just killed me,” he says, as he towels the sweat off his brow. “It killed me to not be there out on the field with the guys. Those Sundays were tough to get through.”
Sept. 6, 2018, the season opener, has been circled on Wentz’ calendar since his MRI results came back last December. He’s already doing individual drills at OTAs, and looks to be moving well on his injured left knee, but will it be him or Nick Foles under center to start the 2018 season?
“Everyone always asks, Oh are you going to be ready, are you going to be ready?” says Wentz. “And if I knew, I would tell them. For where I’m at, I feel extremely good. I feel extremely comfortable going forward.”
The next step in Wentz’ rehab progression will be participating fully in practices. He’s currently only participating in individual drills and position work. “I just want to get cleared to fully practice,” he says. “It’s driving me crazy to have to watch some of practice.”
Wentz hopes (God willing) he will spend a long time playing in Philadelphia, a city he feels deeply invested in. Though Foles was Super Bowl MVP, this is still clearly Wentzylvania. When the first pitch was thrown on Friday, around 25,000 Eagles fans filled the Philadelphia Phillies ballpark. The Phillies themselves currently average 25,183 fans for home games.
Twenty-six players came out too. Even several injured teammates who couldn’t participate in the softball game showed up to support their quarterback. Tackle Jason Peters, rehabbing an ACL and MCL tear, spent the night hyping up players in the dugout and giving interviews to safety Chris Maragos, who emceed the event. Maragos also couldn’t play because he’s rehabbing a PCL tear. Receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had shoulder surgery after the Super Bowl, stood next to Peters in the dugout and cheered on his guys. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie took some swings in the home run derby (while inexplicably wearing the jersey of third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld).
Wentz didn’t play in the actual game, but took a few swings at batting practice. For those wondering, the knee showed no signs of injury as he hit a couple line drives to left field.
Wentz and linebacker Jordan Hicks, sidelined last season with a ruptured Achilles, were team captains for the night and responsible for picking players for their teams. Zach Ertz was the first pick, to Wentz, followed by Hicks’ selection of kicker Jake Elliott. Soon there were only two players left, rookie tight end Dallas Goedert and Foles. Hmmm, a rookie and our Super Bowl MVP. I think I’ll take the rookie, Wentz joked. It was a premeditated move to give Foles, Super Bowl LII MVP, the curtain call. When Hicks called his name, the crowd broke into chants of “MVP! MVP!”
Wentz and Foles share the most unique quarterback dynamic in the league. It’s difficult to understand how two starting-caliber players can work together so well. “The way we mutually support each other has been confusing to some,” Wentz admits. “But Nick and I were actually just talking about that today and how our relationship works. First and foremost, it is our friendship and the fact that we are brothers in Christ, knowing that there are bigger things out in the world and there are bigger problems to have.”
The harmony will be tested this season, as Foles returns to the bench despite being the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Maragos, who is close friends with both Wentz and Foles, says their relationship will last because they work so closely together—it almost doesn’t matter who is on the field on game day.
“People are like, Oh Carson didn’t get to play in a Super Bowl,” Maragos says. “I would beg to differ. I feel like he did. He mentally played. He mentally is giving so much to Nick as Nick is physically out there.”
Wentz went all out with his first charity softball game. The Eagles drumline played, soldiers trotted out a jumbo-sized American flag, a school choir sang the anthem and there was a fireworks display to close the evening. He also launched a new project through his charity, “Thy Kingdom Crumb,” a food truck that will drive around Philadelphia this summer and give out free meals to people in need. By the end of the night, more than $850,000 had been raised for the AO1 Foundation. It was an indication that Wentz looms large in Philadelphia, and how eager Eagles fans are to see him back on the field—any field.
• Question or comment? Email us at email@example.com.