Carson Wentz still playing important role in Eagles' Super Bowl push after injury

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) walks off the field after the game against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.

MINNEAPOLIS – On the third Sunday in January, when the clock hit zero and the city of Philadelphia exploded into rapturous joy, Carson Wentz’s face spread into a beaming grin that couldn’t be shifted.

Over the half hour that followed, Lincoln Financial Field was a splash of color and noise, with thousands of fans remaining to rejoice in their heroes being one win away from the franchise's first Super Bowl title.

Amid the madness, Wentz was spotted by Nick Foles, the quarterback who replaced him. Foles pulled him in for a hug – and Wentz was still smiling.

“I think he smiles more now than he even did before the injury,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “To see him there, supporting everyone, you can tell how much it means to him. That speaks volumes about him as a teammate.”

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Back in the locker room, the 25-year-old Wentz wore a gray NFC Champions T-shirt and hat while toting a cane. Wentz led the Eagles to an extraordinary season, racking up an 11-2 record while appearing to take the lead for MVP honors. Then, in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams, he sustained season-ending tears of the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments.

It wasn’t until last Friday that Wentz finally spoke up about his injury. He talked briefly about his own rehab and his hopes of being ready for Week 1 of next season, but soon it was on to the ways in which he is trying to help Foles and the rest of his teammates as they try to outduel the Patriots on Sunday in Minneapolis.

“I am trying to do what I can,” Wentz said. “I am definitely not trying to overdo anything but coming in in the mornings with Nick and Nate (Sudfeld) and really trying to do what they did for me all season. Help them, be with them in the film room, talk to the guys and say what I see. Nick has done a great job and really taken that leadership role so I am trying to support him as best I can.”

It didn’t take long for Wentz to convince the locker room of his potential and maturity last season. Since the injury, his teammates' opinion of him has only risen.

“He was a very positive influence on the field and he is still a positive influence after he got injured,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “That’s important If you’re trying to carry on the momentum.”

The Eagles were widely written off once Wentz got hurt. They were home underdogs against the sixth-seeded Falcons in the divisional round, the first such instance since 1970. They were outsiders again when facing the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, but Foles led them to an explosive start from which they never looked back in a 38-7 rout.

Wentz admitted that it stings not to be able to play, but he offsets those feelings by assisting in other ways.

“I wouldn’t say it is a prideful thing,’ Wentz said. “As humans we all want to be the competitors that we are and be out there on the field. Every time the offence runs out there on the field on Sundays it is tough and it hits me a little bit. But then I am in it, because I love these guys and I am a part of this team just as much as anyone else. I couldn’t be happier for Nick.”

Wentz’s older brother Zach, who helps him oversee his business and charitable affairs, has not been surprised at how Carson has reveled in the role of supporting Foles and the rest of the Eagles team.

“You don’t get to see someone’s true character until something goes wrong, and so many things were going right for Carson and the whole team, up to the injury,” Zach Wentz said. “This has obviously tested him, but judging by the words of his teammates, it really reveals that he’s a man of very high character.”

On Sunday, the sole focus will be on Foles as he tries to help the Eagles dethrone the Patriots, who are seeking their third title in four years.

But Wentz's presence still looms large, and he will be there on the sidelines, offering quiet advice and more outspoken support. Wentz describes the Eagles’ greatest strength as being its resiliency, the way it acts as a collective brotherhood.

“It is a brotherhood,” safety Malcolm Jenkins agreed. “To have people give themselves to support each other, that kind of sums it up.”

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