1 month after Carson Wentz injury, Philadelphia Eagles coach says team has shaken its sting
Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, left, talks with head coach Doug Pederson before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
PHILADELPHIA — In many ways, the story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 season is approaching a climax this month, with the playoffs standing as a dramatic closing chapter of a year filled with gut-wrenching twists and heart-pounding turns.
But if the Birds crumple in Saturday’s divisional round game against the Falcons, if they wilt under mounting pressure, pundits will remember something else as the season’s defining moment. They’ll point to Carson Wentz’s torn ACL last month and say that’s when the Eagles’ campaign changed for good. That’s when the story’s conclusion became clear.
Coach Doug Pederson has been fighting to prove that the injury his MVP candidate quarterback suffered Dec. 10 hasn’t left his team destined for doom. And Thursday, exactly one month after he announced Wentz would need season-ending surgery, Pederson insisted his team has shaken the sting of losing its leader.
It takes a while for players to get over something like that, but Pederson said spirited practices convinced him they’ve done it.
“The game keeps going,” Pederson said. “We still have to go to work the next day. Nick [Foles] has to get himself ready to play, I have gotta coach the next day. I’ve gotta coach the coaches — you know what I’m saying? Football’s not going to stop. The games are not going to stop.”
On the field, the challenge of playing without Wentz is daunting in itself. Though Foles, the Eagles’ 28-year-old backup, has playoff experience as a starter, his shaky performances over the final two weeks of the regular season sapped Philly’s fan base of its typical confidence.
The Eagles need to tweak their game plan and responsibilities to account for Foles, a quarterback who lacks Wentz’s elite athleticism and escapability.
At the same time, Pederson’s told his players the mindset in the post-Wentz portion of the season is important. While the Birds feel the pain of losing their brightest star– and respected veteran before him like Jason Peters and Darren Sproles — to injuries, they can’t let those emotions stunt the momentum of a promising run to the playoffs.
“The train is still kind of moving,” Pederson said. “We’re sick to our stomachs that those guys aren’t with us out there on the field, but the train is still moving. And the sooner we get over that and get onto the next order of business, the better we’re going to be become.”
Philadelphia Eagles’ Doug Pederson explains how team moves on from Carson Wentz injury, 1 month a…
As for Wentz’s physical presence in the building, Pederson said it’s a balancing act. Wentz communicates often with Foles, but he hasn’t attended most meetings or practices while healing and beginning a long rehab process.
Pederson wants Wentz to enjoy the Eagles’ postseason, to be around his teammates as they ramp up preparations for the Falcons. Still, the new starting quarterback must assume leadership duties and command respect, while Wentz is wise to focus energy on rehab.
Foles has now had a month to accomplish those things, just as the rest of the team has had 31 days to adjust in the injury’s aftermath. In Pederson’s eyes, that’s long enough. New characters have emerged as central figures of the Eagles’ season, and they have a chance to craft the type of ending the coaches wants to see.
“Jason Peters; it takes a little time. Darren Sproles; it takes a little time. Carson Wentz; it’s going to take a little time,” Pederson said. “Now we’ve had that time. We’ve moved on, and we have a great opportunity sitting in front of us.”