By Al Thompson
Anyone who watched the 2017–18 NFL season knows how much these teams mean to their fans, to their cities. Just look back at the parade held in mid-February in Philadelphia. People will be talking about it for many generations.
The popularity of pro sports teams, especially football, is at an all-time high and isn’t going anywhere. The NFL is a mufti-billion-dollar enterprise and its top players make a king’s ransom.
Once a team gets its hands on an elite player and commits a big investment to that player, it is supremely important to keep him healthy and on the field.
Sports science has become a huge business, and analytics is a big part of that. Last year, with three games left in the regular season, Eagles franchise quarterback Carson Wentz went down for the season with a complicated knee injury and the diagnosis was nine to 12 months for recovery.
Wentz became an MVP candidate in just his second season because of a non-stop motor and a drive to be the best.
Those traits in Wentz saw only the word “nine,” and immediately that was the day the 25-year-old told himself he would be 100 percent.
What fueled the fire even more was the fact that his backup, Nick Foles, went on the run of his life and led the Birds on an epic drive to the first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
Wentz could be seen running and throwing passes all over the fields at the NovaCare Complex during organized team activities (OTAs), mini-camps and at the beginning of training camp.
But once real hitting started, though, Wentz was on the sideline. There was no way the Eagles medical staff was going to put that knee in danger. It was all about the numbers. At that point, it seemed that the idea that he may not be ready for week one was something Wentz began to realize.
Dr. Sean McMillan, the chief of orthopedics and director of orthopedic sports medicine at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County and Cherry Hill, said, if Wentz is resigning to the idea that he has to be patient, it’s a good thing.
“I can tell you from our own college athletes and our high school athletes, even; once you get over the mental hurdle of whatever date of expectation they had, it becomes much easier,” McMillan said. “[Wentz} was amped up and wants to be out there for week one, Sept. 6, which is understandable.”
At a recent news conference. Wentz talked about the idea he may have to wait a little longer than he had hoped for.
“I think there’s been really no secret that it’s going to be close,” Wentz said. “Seeing where I’m at in camp and finally doing 11-on-11s, I think, naturally, it’s going to be close. Ultimately, it won’t be just my call or the coaches’ call. It will come down to what the doctors say, really.”
Coach Doug Pederson said it’s really all about the medical professionals to determine his practice limitations and when they clear him, not a minute sooner.
“We’ll sit down with our medical team, [head orthopedic physician] Dr. [Christopher] Dodson and Jerome [Reid], and we’ll discuss the next step in his progression,” Pederson said. “I’m excited to see where he is at, health-wise. He’s done a nice a job out here already these last couple of weeks, so I’ll be curious to see where it goes from here.” ••