PHILADELPHIA — When the clock struck midnight on Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles officially left their Super Bowl victory in the past.
At his press conference on Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson emphasized that “12:01 a.m., June 15”—the day after the team was set to receive its Super Bowl rings—would mark the end of relishing the win over the Patriots. “After the ring ceremony, to me, we’ve put that to bed,” Pederson said. “We’ve put that to rest, and we move on to 2018.”
The Eagles did their best to really soak in the last moments of their win over the Patriots four months earlier during Thursday’s final minicamp session. They stretched to a bling-and-ring-themed playlist (Track 1: “Rings” by Kap G, Track 2: “Big Rings” by Drake and Future) and the players broke their huddle with a “BIG RINGS ON THREE. 1, 2, 3, BIG RINGS!” chant.
During Philadelphia’s practices this week, it was clear that at least one player has already moved well beyond the Eagles’ Super Bowl season. Now six months removed from ACL surgery, quarterback Carson Wentz is running and throwing without hesitation. In practices this week, he looked mobile in the pocket, and his mechanics looked much the same, which he says is because he threw from a seated position early in rehab when he was still unable to move. Aside from a brace he wore on his left knee, his injury was invisible.
Wentz had probably his best day of work this offseason on Thursday, the Eagles last day before school let out for the summer. At the beginning of the offseason in April, Wentz wasn’t yet cleared to participate in team drills but throughout the last month, he’s quickly progressed to taking reps in 7-on-7 work. He still isn’t participating in 11-on-11 drills, but the quarterback has made his presence felt regardless. In 7-on-7 red zone work on Thursday, Wentz threw consecutive touchdown passes, hitting receiver Greg Ward in the corner of the end zone and placing another ball over a defender and right into the hands of rookie tight end Dallas Goedert.
When he wasn’t able to participate during 11-on-11 drills, Wentz kept himself moving. On Wednesday, he played catch with receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Jeffery didn’t practice this week, but looked to be on track with his rehab as he gracefully and easily pulled down Wentz’s passes.
After Wednesday’s practice, Wentz reiterated that his goal is still to be ready to play in Week 1 against Atlanta. Without knowing the specific details of his rehab timeline, it’s impossible to predict if playing on Sept. 6 is medically possible, but Wentz’s performance at minicamp and his Type-A work ethic make it seem likely that he will be ready.
The next step for Wentz is to be cleared for live contact, but there’s no specific date on the calendar for that benchmark. “It’s a fluid process,” Wentz said. “Time will tell when camp comes around … The biggest thing is to keep pushing along until I am cleared. As you can see out here I am doing quite a bit. Obviously the biggest last hurdle is going to be the contact part.”
Knock on wood, but the quarterback says he has yet to hit a setback in his six-month rehab journey, “So far, so good.” He plans to stay in Philadelphia to continue rehabbing for the majority of the six-week break before training camp.
Pederson was equally vague about when he expects Wentz to be cleared for full contact. “I’m not going to put myself in a box that way,” he deflected during his Thursday morning press conference before the team’s last practice. The head coach stressed on Tuesday that this is still Wentz’s team, but 1B option Nick Foles will be ready to go if Wentz is not. Pederson said that he’s considering splitting the first-team reps evenly between Wentz and Foles at training camp, similar to what he did in 2016 when the Eagles had Wentz, Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel all on the roster.
Foles took the majority of the team drill reps during minicamp, all with the first-team offense, but didn’t do much to impress. He threw two interceptions on Wednesday that looked to be the result of communication issues with his receivers.
On Thursday, the Eagles first-team offense ran a trick play that looked very similar to the Philly Special, the play that will live forever in Philadelphia sports history, in which wide receiver Greg Ward (a former college quarterback) took the direct snap and threw to Foles. As practice wrapped up, Wentz had a relaxed catch with Ertz, while the other three quarterbacks—Foles, Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan—took turns throwing at the goal posts, trying to hit the crossbar in the fewest amount of attempts.
Though the final practice had a lighthearted, day-before-summer-vacation feel, Wentz knows he’s on a tight schedule. There are six weeks until training camp, and then two weeks of camp before preseason games, and then four weeks until the start of the regular season. Wentz has 12 weeks to hit that next benchmark and just as the head coach has told the team, Wentz is focused on moving forward.