Wentz learned he will be Eagles' starter while hunting geese
PHILADELPHIA—Carson Wentz learned he would be the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback while hunting geese in New Jersey on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Eagles' head coach Doug Pederson called him and told him the news. Wentz headed home from hunting. He said he had "a lot of emotions going on" in his mind, and he immediately began thinking about starting the first game of his NFL career.
"The whole time all along I was just getting ready for whenever this time would come," said Wentz, the North Dakota State standout who was the No. 2 pick in last spring's NFL Draft. "I knew I was ready. I knew I was taking the mental reps, being out the last couple of weeks, even going out to the first preseason game. I was developing at a fast pace and now it's here. I'm confident in myself, I'm confident in this team. I'm excited for it."
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Wentz received full clearance to return to action on Monday after suffering a hairline fracture in two ribs, which he said he expected last week based on the way he was healing. He took the first-team snaps in practice on Monday for the first time since joining the Eagles.
"I feel like I've earned respect with how I go about my business, how I carry myself," Wentz said. "There's nothing different that I need to do now. It's still football, still be the same guy."
After the Eagles traded Sam Bradford, Wentz spoke with the former starter. He thanked Bradford, who Wentz said had been a mentor, and exchanged pleasantries.
Wentz knows there will be pressure associated with his role. He also knows it won't always be smooth. He said he will take the bumps "in stride" and keep improving. But he's confident he's ready for it.
"I just knew ever since OTAs this summer," Wentz said, referring to organized team activities. "That preseason game I walked away feeling extra confident with it. It wasn't pretty, by any means, but I didn't feel overwhelmed or anything. I just felt very confident with it, and now it's here."
Pederson confirmed Monday morning Wentz will start against the Cleveland Browns.
"Everybody feels like this kid is ready to go,'' Pederson said. "We drafted him to take over the reins. We have to be smart in how we handle it. But at the same time, we fully expect him to perform like he's capable of performing.''
Pederson said Wentz's two fractured ribs, which kept him out of the last three preseason games, have completely healed.
"What he's done around this building, the plays he's made in practice, in the one preseason game, has given me confidence that he can lead this football team,'' Pederson said. "I'm excited. We're going full steam ahead.''
Pederson said he would have been content to let Wentz spend the season watching and learning behind Sam Bradford. But when the Minnesota Vikings offered the Eagles a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round selection for Bradford over the weekend, everything changed.
"It was right for this football team,'' he said. "This is something I believe in, we believe in. This is why we drafted him.
"Would the ideal situation be later than sooner? Sure. But right now, where we are, we've got a good football team around him. We've got a good defense. Good special teams. Good offensive line. Good runner. So all the pieces are here for him to be successful and for us to win some games.''
Pederson said the reaction of the players to the news that Wentz would be the season-opening starter was entirely positive.
"Guys were excited,'' he said. "They were excited for Carson. Obviously, when you lose your quarterback in Sam, it could be mixed emotion. But the guys were 100 percent behind it and thrilled that Carson is going to be the guy.
"They've seen him day in and day out like we've seen him. They know he can be a special player in this league. They've embraced it and support it 100 percent.''
Wentz, a Bismarck (N.D.) Century High School graduate, helped lead NDSU to the last two FCS national championships. He was the No. 2 overall pick in last spring's NFL Draft.