ST. PAUL, Minn. — Carson Wentz went to the Super Bowl last season and made himself a promise afterward.
“I told myself, I’m not going to come back until I’m playing,” Wentz said.
Well, about that.
Wentz is at Super Bowl LII but as everyone knows, he’s not playing. Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback most of this season, tore his ACL in December, and his backup Nick Foles won a couple playoff games to get the team to the Super Bowl. The Eagles quarterback is one of the brightest young stars in the league, but at Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday he was off to the side, sitting in the stands of the Xcel Energy Center. Someone had uncovered some seats so he could sit down with his left leg in the aisle, extended in a brace.
Had he stayed healthy, he would have been in the epicenter of the madness in front of him on the floor, the most popular Eagles interview subject. He might have won an NFL MVP award Saturday night and then led his team in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Instead, he answered questions from a slow trickle of media coming to see him in the stands about how difficult this Super Bowl trip is for him.
“It’s just tough knowing that could be you,” said Wentz, who is from neighboring North Dakota. “I had my sights set on this thing since I knew we weren’t making the playoffs last year. I had my sights set on, playing in Minneapolis, it’s right down the road from home, it’s meant to be. Here we are, it just looks different for me.”
Wentz is trying to put a good face on it. He has helped his teammates, getting to meetings at 6 a.m. like he’s still playing, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. Wentz said often he was “stoked” for Foles and his team, and there’s no reason to believe that’s not genuine.
“Couldn’t be happier for [Foles],” Wentz said. “But at the same time there’s those real emotions that are human.”
Wentz said his rehab is going well. He said last week that he still hopes to be back by Week 1. He said Monday he’s not worried about rushing back too fast, something that has been a problem for others.
Nobody seems concerned that his career trajectory will be affected. When Lurie talked about Wentz, he spoke of him like the future star he looked like in this breakout season, with no apparent concern the injury will set him back.
“You’re talking about someone driven to be great,” Lurie said. “Really, really bright and humble at the same time, incredibly confident and a leader. He’s already at age 24 an incredibly popular leader with our team. It shows. It shows since the injury.”
Some people have speculated there could be a quarterback controversy if Foles brings Philadelphia its long-awaited first Super Bowl title, but that’s not happening.
“This is Carson’s team,” Foles said. “I’ve had to take it over, but Carson is a tremendous player. I think he’s the MVP of the league.”
Right after the injury, Wentz said his religious faith would carry him through. He talked about how God had a plan for him, and the injury was part of it. He has kept that faith and discussed it Monday night.
“The surrender now looks different. It’s always easy to say I surrender everything when things are going great, life’s good,” Wentz said. “But when it comes to an injury like this, and the season we were having, that I was having personally with this team, and now it’s kind of taken away. It’s a chance to practice what I preach, and that’s that I play for Him and not myself. It’s taught me a lot so far. He has closed this door for me on this season personally, but I know He’s opening other doors for me.”
This trip to the Super Bowl will motivate Wentz to get back, he said, and finally play in the game. Assuming he keeps improving and the injury doesn’t set him back, that doesn’t seem like a crazy goal. But this Super Bowl, he’ll be stuck on the sideline. That’s now how he envisioned it a year ago.
“I don’t know many people more competitive than I am,” Wentz said. “I want to be out there, want to have the ball in my hand, want to be making the plays. So it will be tough, especially when the offense runs out on that field the first time, but I’m going to be right there, having my headset on, doing what I can to help Nick and hopefully win this thing.”
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