Carson Wentz building confidence in first training camp with Washington Commanders

ASHBURN, Va. -- When Carson Wentz arrived Tuesday for Washington Commanders training camp, his new head coach, Ron Rivera, delivered the same message that he also relayed in March.

"I wanted to reiterate more than anything that he was wanted here," Rivera said.

It was a good message for Wentz to hear after being traded in consecutive offseasons.

"It builds confidence," Wentz said. "I think I'm a confident person, but hearing it from someone else -- from the head coach -- it definitely instills that confidence even more."

Wentz began his first training camp with the Commanders on Wednesday. A year ago, he opened his first camp with the Indianapolis Colts, and the year prior he was the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback.

"Walking in yesterday, it was, 'Hey, Year 7 kicking off,'" Wentz said. "That was cool and surreal. Every year I get goose bumps. Growing up wanting to play this game and still playing it, you get those goose bumps on Day 1, and then it's just ball."

The Commanders have not had the same quarterback open the season as a starter since Kirk Cousins left after the 2017 season, prompting them to acquire Wentz from the Colts for a third-round draft pick this year and a 2023 conditional pick that likely will be a second-rounder.

Wentz will be the organization's 33rd starting quarterback since it last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season.

That's why many within the Washington organization are not focused on why Philadelphia and Indianapolis both traded Wentz. Rather, they see a big, strong-armed quarterback who can reach a higher level than others have in recent years, and they hope he becomes the franchise's first quarterback to surpass 30 touchdown passes since Sonny Jurgensen in 1967.

"What he does on a day-to-day basis tells me everything I need to know about him," Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said. "He came in, he worked, he evolved himself with the team. He's exactly what we want from a quarterback. I know a lot of times the media doesn't get the full story, only the story some people portray. He's given me no reason to doubt him at all."

Rivera admitted Wednesday's first practice was "sloppy," but the Commanders did see hopeful signs from Wentz. Rivera liked how he handled the huddle and how he scanned through his progressions and found checkdowns.

"He's hyper, he's excited -- he really is," Rivera said. "You see a little more confidence in what we're doing. You could tell he was confident with his movements."

Wentz connected with receiver Terry McLaurin on a deep corner route for approximately 40 yards. Later, there was another telling moment when he threw a bit behind McLaurin, who reached back for a completion. As Rivera wondered if Wentz was late, he saw McLaurin run up to Wentz and let him know it was his fault -- he was too quick to come out of his route.

"We were able to connect off the bat," McLaurin said. "And just to see his command of the huddle was really good. He was calling the plays really strong and that gives confidence to the other 10 guys in the huddle that we have a guy who will be attention-to-detail-oriented. It gives us a chance to make plays."

McLaurin was among a group of Commanders who worked out with Wentz in California earlier this month. It allowed those two to work together for the first time -- McLaurin missed the on-field spring work while he awaited a new contract. And it allowed Wentz to start forming relationships.

"I try not to do anything out of the ordinary, let those relationships naturally build," Wentz said.

But Wentz also spent time reflecting this offseason, something he said he would do regardless if he had been traded or not. Wentz threw 27 touchdown passes to only seven interceptions for the Colts, but they were quick to unload him.

"Regardless if it's a good, bad or ugly game or year, I'm always that way," Wentz said. "How can I get better? Where can I help the team be better? For me, it's distributing the ball to those guys and being efficient with my play and my attitude and leadership. Those are things I look at every year."