Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was supposed to be in the middle of it all last night.
Instead, being tucked away in a single seat in the stands at Super Bowl Opening Night, wedged in next to a tarped-off area and with his injured left knee stuck stiffly out into the aisle, he was as literally removed from the show as he has been figuratively.
And while many players will recite the truths of football about “next man up,” Wentz was willing to admit there was some anger, admit there was some hurt involved with watching the process from a safe distance.
“It’ll definitely be mixed emotions right away on Sunday. It’ll be mixed, right away,” he said. “But, I’ve been saying it all week that once the team and our offense takes the field, it will hit me a little bit. But, once I get those emotions out of the way, and I’m around the guys and we’re preparing, it’s back to normal. It’s all good. It’s just a different feeling, for sure.”
Wentz is doing his best to keep a stiff upper lip through the week, to make sure he’s still helping backup Nick Foles as much as he can, and to not lapse into self-pity. That’s not easy when a chance at professional immortality is snatched away from you, but the 25-year-old Wentz insisted he was going to be fine.
“It’s good for me to see what this entails,” he replied, when asked if participating in the circus from the periphery was something he was sure he wanted to do. “I’m still a part of this team.”
Of course, he’s not the only Eagles player to go down with an injury this year, but he is the only one who was a threat to win the league’s MVP award. And that makes it emotional for him and his teammates alike.
“I tell Carson all the time, his spirit is still with us,” veteran tight end Brent Celek said. “We love having him around and he gets us all going. But he’s also doing everything he can to make sure Foles is ready for Sunday in the way that he can. And that’s special because that’s not always the case, man.”
During the 25 minutes of answering questions before he was shepherded away, Wentz talked a lot about his faith, and his attempt to come back next year and bring the Eagles back to another Super Bowl. But at the same time, he’s smart enough to know there are no guarantees in the NFL. And that reality can be as painful to accept as a shredded knee.