PHILADELPHIA — Carson Wentz was having an MVP-caliber season before a torn ACL forced him to the sideline, where he watched Nick Foles lead the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory.
Wentz has a mission to return for Week 1 and is already ahead of schedule after being cleared for 7-on-7 work last week. Still, he has a way to go before he is cleared for full activity.
“It's just a process,” Wentz told The Associated Press. “There's the mental side of it, feeling comfortable with it, but also the physical limitations that the doctors put on you and you have to trust what they're saying. If I could tell you I'd be ready Week 1, I would. I just don't know. It's a fluid process. That's obviously the goal but so far things have been great.”
Wentz's comeback comes with interesting circumstances: He has no pressure to return right away because the Eagles can lean on the Super Bowl MVP to start the season. And that's not necessarily a threat to Wentz, whose friendship with Foles doesn't have the strain seen in other famed NFL tandems like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers or Joe Montana and Steve Young.
“We've become so close ever since he first got here,” Wentz said. “Developed a real friendship, a real relationship, more than just a working relationship, a true friendship.”
Wentz admits it was difficult to see someone else hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy on stage first. But the two quarterbacks are more like brothers than competitors for the starting job.
“It's human nature to want to be on that podium and be the guy,” Wentz said. “You grow up wanting to be there, but not being able to be up there, there's nobody I'd rather have up there than Nick.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson has made it clear there's no quarterback controversy in Philadelphia since the minute Foles finished a sensational performance in the 41-33 win over the Patriots. When he's healthy, Wentz is the guy. He's the face of the franchise.
“I still believe this is Carson's team,” Pederson said Tuesday. "There are no egos involved. They're in this thing together. Both support each other. Nick supported Carson during the season last year, and then Carson turned around and supported Nick at the end of the year.
“Their relationship has carried over into this spring and summer, and it's really good. I see them working in the classroom. I see them working on the field. They keep talking. They want to get better individually. They want to get our team better. And so it's been a really good, really good dynamic between those two.”
Foles has maintained since he replaced Wentz last December that he understands his role is the backup. He wants to start again in the NFL, but was happy to stay in Philadelphia.
“I've shown what I can do,” Foles said. “I love the team and I love the city. I'm excited for Carson to get back.”
While he was focused on rehabbing and returning to the field as quickly as possible, Wentz pursued other interests during the offseason. He went to Haiti for the second time in less than a year in April — teammates Zach Ertz, Nate Sudfeld and Rashard Davis joined him — and launched plans for his Audience of One Foundation to build a sports complex in that country.
“Being able to partner up with Mission of Hope in Haiti and to see how everything is so Christ-centered, they had a sports complex in thought so we were on board for that,” Wentz said. “I know how sports changed my life, how so many doors have opened up and how my faith has grown through guys who have mentored me in sports. Just to know that can be given and provided to the people in Haiti, it'll really change their perspective on so many things and restore some dignity and hope. It gets me fired up and I'm excited to go back and be hands-on and see the impact it's making.”
Wentz then held the inaugural AO1 Foundation charity softball game at the home of the Philadelphia Phillies on June 1, drawing more than 25,000 fans who came out to see the Super Bowl champs compete in a home run derby — left guard Stefen Wisniewski was the winner with a fantastic power display — and a game that featured Foles and 23 other Eagles.
“The brotherhood we have on this team, we're so close,” Wentz said. “We genuinely care about each other. A lot of unselfish players. To see these guys come out (to support me) is so humbling.”
Before the game, Wentz also revealed a 25-foot food truck named “Thy Kingdom Crumb” that will begin delivering free food to people in the Delaware Valley in August. The partnership between AO1 and The Connect Church aims to provide food not only to people in need but others in the community also.
“The goal is to provide something different, to provide the atmosphere to just love on people,” Wentz said. “I think things that are free these days are kind of confusing. There's no strings attached with this. I think people will just see and experience something different with that.”
Make no mistake, despite all his outside interests, Wentz is determined to help the Eagles become the ninth team to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
“The biggest thing is the culture of excellence that we've created,” Wentz said. “I don't see why the sky can't be the limit for us again. Our roster is rock-solid and our camaraderie and our culture is still rock-solid and growing. We have high expectations.”
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