PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Doug Pederson walked to the podium Wednesday and announced he was going to do something new.
Normally, reporters have to ask about individual injuries one-by-one at his media conferences, but on this day, perhaps moved by the holiday spirit, he said he would lay them all out at once before fielding questions.
And wouldn’t you know, Carson Wentz was on his list. Saving Wentz for last, he explained that his quarterback “has a little bit of back soreness, a little tightness, so we're going to rest him today. Continue to evaluate him and make sure he's good.”
This was unexpected, as just two days before Pederson said Wentz was “feeling as healthy as he's ever been.”
Minutes after his news conference wrapped, there were reports Wentz could be done for the year.
The Eagles have continued to handle this situation awkwardly in the days since. They opted not to have someone from the medical team or front office address the issue, instead keeping everything status quo and leaving Pederson to answer at his next scheduled media conference Friday.
In what turned out to be a tense 12-minute media session with reporters, he tried to cut off questions about Wentz early, only to continue for another 10 minutes. He revealed Wentz has a stress fracture that could take about three months to heal, yet called him questionable for Sunday’s game against the Rams. Wentz was listed as doubtful on the official injury report later that day before being downgraded to out on Saturday.
Here's a look at what we know about the Wentz injury:
How long has Wentz been dealing with back issues?
The first time Wentz appeared on the injury report since his Week 3 return from ACL/LCL surgery was prior to the Oct. 12 game against the New York Giants. He was listed as a limited participant with the designation “not injury related -- rest.”
The following two weeks Wentz appeared on the report with a back injury and was limited on consecutive Wednesdays.
Interestingly, third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld has been active for only three games since Wentz’s return: that Thursday game against the Giants, the following week versus Carolina, when Wentz first was placed on the injury report with a back issue, and Sunday night's game in Los Angeles.
The fact that he dressed the first two weeks while Wentz was on the report suggests there was at least some concern about Wentz’s status. And the notion Wentz has been feeling better in recent weeks can be supported by Sudfeld’s inactive status since late October, as well as Pederson’s saying “there were no symptoms. He was 100 percent” of late.
Pederson declined to answer whether the back injury from October and this one are connected, only that the stress injury he’s currently dealing with “evolved over time.”
NBC reported during Sunday night's game Wentz said his stress fracture is related to previous lower-back problems.
The Philadelphia Daily News reported Friday Wentz had a stress fracture in his back in college that was included in his medical records at the combine.
When did the seriousness of the injury come into focus?
Pederson went from saying Wentz was “feeling as healthy as he’s ever been” at the start of the week to revealing Wentz’s back problem Wednesday. What changed?
A scan of his back is the answer.
Asked when the team discovered the fracture, Pederson said Wentz had a scan done on Tuesday. That would explain the quick pivot and the decision to put the injury onto the public radar Wednesday via Pederson’s “let me list all the injuries” bit, even if it was by saying Wentz was just experiencing a little soreness and tightness.
Given the reports that followed about this being a possible season-ender, it’s clear people internally had seen evidence of a potentially significant injury.
The belief is the Eagles had done scans on Wentz periodically throughout the season as well, but none that revealed the fracture until Tuesday.
What’s with the clumsy reveal?
To understand why things unfolded so oddly, you have to understand who Wentz is and the power he wields. He is an insanely competitive Type A personality who is meticulous in everything he does and likes to have control over situations that pertain to him.
One reason Pederson described Wentz as questionable Friday is because Wentz was still in the process of seeking various medical opinions. Wentz wouldn't address a report that he had seen a back specialist in Los Angeles, per NBC's in-game report Sunday.
Wentz desperately wants to play and all parties have been searching to understand the risks associated with playing through this type of injury.
Now, this is the franchise quarterback we’re talking about and everyone in the organization knows Wentz’s long-term health is going to be the heaviest weight on the scale. There was no way he was playing against the Rams and logic suggests he’ll be shelved for the rest of the season. But it seems they were honoring Wentz’s process while doing their own due diligence.
NBC also reported Wentz wouldn't commit to the three-month timetable, and when asked what the plan was going forward, Wentz said he doesn't know.
Pederson gets testy whenever discussing his QB’s health. That was the case leading up to the start of the season when Wentz was coming off knee surgery, and again this week when the back became the point of focus.
When you think about all the pressure involved with something like this, and the many voices in his ear that won’t always be pushing in similar directions, you can understand why.
“I’m out,” Pederson said as he left the podium Friday following a contentious news conference centered around Wentz. “I’m out.”
Unless the Eagles unexpectedly roll the dice with their most valuable asset, Wentz will likely miss the remainder of the season.
Rest is the key. According to Pederson, this injury could take about three months to recover from. That puts it at around March, before the start of the offseason training program.
There is a level of unpredictability that comes with back injuries in general and stress fractures in particular, but Pederson said he’s not concerned about the long-term prospects “as long as we take the proper steps to make sure that all our players are 100 percent.”
Still, the number of injuries are piling up. Wentz broke his wrist during his last season in college, suffered a rib fracture during the preseason as a rookie, tore his left knee last season and now has a stress fracture -- an injury he reportedly had at North Dakota State as well.