Something Zach Ertz said in a response to a question about Carson Wentz caught my attention on Monday afternoon. Check out this exchange during Ertz’s media availability on the first day of Philadelphia’s 2019 offseason workout program. Bold emphasis is mine:
Q: You know Carson as well as anybody in that locker room. What do you think he’s coming back wanting to prove?
ERTZ: What he can prove? I mean, the guy has done it all, obviously. He’s been one of the most dynamic players in the league when he’s healthy. Was he 100% last year? Absolutely not. The guy had a broken back early in the year. I don’t know if he knows exactly when it happened or whatnot, I don’t know if he spoke about that, but he’s just trying to prove to be the best quarterback he can for this organization. We’d had a lot of team success in the postseason. I know one of his goals is to lead us to that, and lead us a long way. He has lofty goals from an individual standpoint within this organization. And there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be able to achieve those goals. Just the way he approaches every day, how competitive he is, how demanding he is. Not only of us but himself more so than any one of us. He’s the hardest on himself over anyone else. He wants to be great. He wants this city and organization to be great. And he’s so talented that the sky truly is the limit for him.
Hm. “Early in the year”?
Ertz was later asked to clarify exactly what he meant:
Q: I just wanted to clarify something, please correct me if I’m mistaken. You said you didn’t know when the back injury happened, but you said he was dealing with it early in the season. Do you know if he was dealing with it long before he went out for good for the season?
ERTZ: Uh, I’m not going to talk about that. I’m sorry. He can talk about specifics, I don’t think it’s my job to do that. I think I probably overspoke earlier. But yeah, in terms of specifics, when he got hurt, I’ll let him do that.
Publicly, at least, there’s never been perfect clarity about when exactly Wentz’s back issue started and how much it was hurting him. But it sounds like Ertz spilled the beans a little here.
This “early in the season” comment matches up with some other things we do already know. Remember those injury reports?
Wentz first appeared on the Eagles injury report with a back injury in Week 7. He was limited during the Wednesday practice that week before returning as a full participant on Thursday. The same exact scenario happened in Week 8. Wentz did not appear on the injury report after the Eagles’ Week 9 bye.
When news of Wentz’s back injury first emerged in mid-December, Ian Rapoport had the following to say. Bold emphasis is mine:
But the real question now, as far as I understand it, is: “Is Carson Wentz going to play again for the rest of the season?” Some of that might actually depend on the result from this weekend’s game. If the Eagles lose, there really is no point of bringing Wentz back from his back injury, which, by the way, actually he’s been dealing with since October. He’s been on the injury report, off the injury report. This has been something that’s kind of been reoccurring this season.
I can’t speak to the purported “reoccurring” nature of Wentz’s back injury during the 2018 season. But I can tell you that it’s my understanding Wentz’s back was causing him significant pain at least as early as October.
The “early” nature of the injury helps to explain why Wentz — who actually statistically improved in some areas last year — just didn’t always pass the eye test in 2018. He never truly resembled his 2017 near-MVP form.
The situation also begs to question why it took until December 13 for the Eagles to ultimately shut him down.
What’s happened in the past is done. But what remains are the lingering concerns about the Eagles’ medical decisions and Wentz’s health. As of today, Wentz said the fractured vertebrae in his back is still healing and he hopes to be ready for OTAs.
The idea of a healthy Wentz in 2019 is tantalizing. There’s reason to believe he can help lead the Eagles to continued success. That is, if he can just find a way to stay on the field.