The Sea Change on Carson Wentz
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Now that Carson Wentz hasn't reached his goal of starting Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, the narrative now shifts to when we will see the superstar quarterback on the field next.
Head coach Doug Pederson essentially confirmed Tuesday that any decision was made for him by the medical staff who have still not cleared Wentz for contact just short of nine months since ACL and LCL surgery was performed by Dr. James Bradley on Dec. 13 of last year.
“Close,” Pederson responded when asked how far Wentz was from being cleared. “I’m no doctor, no expert. Still leaving it up to the medical team. He’s had some great workouts here in the last few days. We’ll see.”
Inside the building at the NovaCare Complex you do get the feeling there has been a bit of a sea change even if it hasn't been a seismic shift, one that takes into account the long-term future of Wentz over some arbitrary deadline of say nine months, which would be Sept.13, exactly one week after the opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
“I’m not going to get into all the whys, therefore, what went into this, what went into that. I made the decision,” Pederson said. “I’ve been in conversation with both Carson and Nick this entire time. Dating all the way back to the spring. I made the decision yesterday, both guys have embraced it. Now we are focused and getting ready for Thursday night.”
The obvious contradiction there is: was there really any decision to make if the medical people haven't OK'd Pederson to choose between Foles and Wentz?
The Eagles’ Week 2 game is at Tampa on Sept. 16, a full three days past the nine-month mark that independent surgeons have cited as reasonable for a high-level athlete.
"If just the ACL is damaged, recovery for an elite athlete who can focus on recovering [rather than having to go to work and rehab in the evenings] can be as short as six months," Dr. Andreas Gomoll, a sports medicine surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Cornell Medical School, explained to 973espn.com back in February. "If other ligaments are damaged enough to require repair, such as the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), then recovery will be longer - closer to nine-12 months."
Bradley, Wentz's surgeon, went on the record last week with John Clark of NBCSports Philadelphia and called for a patient approach.
“It should be a cautious approach," Bradley told Clark in a phone interview on Friday. "What’s a few games over 12 to 15 years?”
Bradley emphasized that Wentz's injury was far more than a torn ACL and claimed that the quarterback needs to be “tournament-tested tough” before returning.
“[The] ligaments, tendons, and muscles need to learn to work again like a symphony,” Bradley asserted.
So, what does a cautious approach mean?
Dr. David Chao, a former team physician and surgeon with the San Diego Chargers, recently explored things a bit further by explaining Wentz could be cleared to be a "pocket quarterback" by Week 1 but there would be no way he could possibly be even near 100 percent of his former self by Thursday.
"He could conceivably be a pocket QB by then, but there is no way to be his run/pass self until much later in this season or possibly even 2019," Chao wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Limiting him or any player potentially limits his effectiveness and invites other injuries. Playing cautiously is one way to invite other injuries."
According to Chao, the numbers say that the chance of re-tear of the ACL is higher for up to the first year and goes down each week from there.
He then explained the ominous potential here: "With the Thursday opener, that gives Wentz 10 days before the Week 2 game, but it seems doubtful that he will start that either," Chao claimed. "To me, he is still multiple weeks away.
"... At this point, medically, he is more likely to start Week 7 (after a Thursday night game in Week 6) or Week 10 (after a bye in Week 9) than he is to start Week 2."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen