During testing period at training camp. the Eagles’ franchise QB realizes ’you never know how this is going to unfold’
Carson Wentz knows there are going to be challenges this season and those extend far beyond the usual ones that he faces as the Eagles quarterback.
But, as Wentz put it, "I’m also not an idiot" when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, which has already wreaked havoc on the nation, leading to more than 150,000 deaths and more than 4 million positive cases.
Some of those positive cases, or exposures to COVID-19, include teammates in right tackle Lane Johnson, backup tackle Jordan Mailata and linebacker Nathan Gerry. It has also led Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin to opt-out of the season.
Wentz was asked if he considered opting out as well. After all, his wife just gave birth to a baby girl this past spring.
"Throughout the whole time, I think everyone is in the back of their mind wondering what does that look like for me safety-wise, what does that look like for my family safety-wise, and I was no different," Wentz said. "So definitely had to take all those factors in. I feel safe here. You never know how this is fully going to unfold. It’s something my wife and I talked a lot about and prayed a lot about, and we feel good with our decisions."
But Wentz knows that things can change quickly. That was evident in Major League Baseball, as COVID-19 outbreaks have led to a week's worth of postponed games for the Phillies and Miami Marlins.
For the NFL, the pandemic has led to the cancellation of spring practices. It has caused the first five days of training camp to be for testing only, with a two-week ramp up period before padded practices can begin in mid-August.
It has also led to the cancellation of all four of the preseason games.
"Very aware that it is going to be a challenge," Wentz said. "We’ve talked about it a fair amount, and you’ve gotta be a professional 24/7. Not just when you’re in the building now, but it’s how do you take care of yourself out of the building, and be smart, and handle your business.
"So we are all in this thing together. We say that a lot of times, kind of the cliché thing, but it has a little different meaning this year. And I’m not dumb to know different ways that guys can still get it. Things might happen. And so you never know how this is going to unfold."
For the Eagles, Wentz has missed out on extended practice time with his rookie wide receivers in first-round draft pick, Jalen Reagor, fifth-round pick John Hightower and sixth-round pick Quez Watkins.
Typically, the spring practices are the time to build that familiarity with new receivers. But other than a few days in Houston in early July, Wentz has not had any time on the field with them, other than conditioning drills the past few days – once Wentz passed all the COVID-19 tests.
Wentz's first impressions?
"They’re all fast," he said. "They can all roll, so I’m excited about that. We’ve barely been on the grass together. It’s really been two days now, and we’re not practicing or anything, so I’m really excited once we get the pads on and we’re full speed out there.
"They all have a great chance to help this team right away this year, even in Week 1."
They might have to. After all, DeSean Jackson is the only receiver returning with more than a full season of NFL experience. Alshon Jeffery is on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from foot surgery, and Goodwin opted out.
The only other receivers who have NFL experience are J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who had a disappointing rookie season in 2019; and Greg Ward, who spent a good part of last season on the practice squad before becoming Wentz's go-to receiver late in the season.
There isn't much time before the season opener on Sept. 13 at Washington.
"For us, I think the lack of grass time makes it tough for us, but I think it makes it tough for really everybody across the league," Wentz said. "Everyone is dealing with it, so if I’m being honest, I think we’re in a good place just because we do have a lot of carryover, with a lot of the same coaches. Obviously, we’ve added some pieces, but for the most part, the offense hasn’t changed."
But the circumstances have – greatly. And that's perhaps the biggest obstacle for Wentz, more so than the apparent snub of getting left off of the NFL Network's list of top 100 players.
"It’s voted on by the players," he said. "I won’t let it cause me to lose sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out there this year to show what I can do with my teammates."
As for the season, Wentz said: "We’re going to do everything that we can as a team to make sure guys are handling their business. Not just in the building, but outside the building, who they’re around, what they’re going to do. So it’s going to look different and it is going to be a challenge."