The message has come from the owner, the top football executive and the head coach this offseason: The Philadelphia Eagles are Carson Wentz’s team.
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So on the first day of the 2017 offseason program, Wentz had his first chance to exert his presence in a building where the optimism comes from his standing as the franchise quarterback.
“As the quarterback of this team, you’ve got to accept that role and run with it,” Wentz said. “I’m going to let it all happen organically and still be myself. It’ll all just take care of itself.”
The Eagles started nine weeks of offseason workouts Monday at the NovaCare Complex, although the collective bargaining agreement limits the activity that can take place. There was no actual football practiced, and attendance was voluntary.
But coach Doug Pederson could meet with the team for the first time this offseason, and the players could work with the strength and conditioning staff. There are 76 players on the roster, including 63 who spent time with the Eagles last year in some capacity.
The most high-profile newcomer is wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who was signed to a one-year, $14 million deal to help Wentz. The two shared dinner after Jeffery signed, and their connection will be an important part of this season.
“It’s always exciting any time you add new players,” Wentz said. “Not just (the wide receivers), but up front as well, and some other pieces on defense. … Any time you can add players like that, that you think can help the team, it creates a lot of buzz, a lot of interest, and a lot of excitement in that locker room.”
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Wentz, 24, will know where the locker room is this offseason.
When he came to Philadelphia last spring, it was after a whirlwind pre-draft process. He was third on the depth chart, did not know his new teammates and needed to move across the country.
One year has made a considerable difference. He’s entrenched as the starting quarterback, has relationships with his teammates and coaches and knows his way around the building and the area.
“Mentally, it’s a whole different ball game,” Wentz said. “It’s not coming in trying to learn a whole different playbook and be overwhelmed with all that as well as all the things that come with being a rookie in the locker room.
“Having that confidence and knowing that playbook and being able to dive into it even more, I’m really understanding and growing with these relationships with these receivers, these tight ends, everybody.”
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After the season, the Eagles’ front office instructed Wentz to get away and unwind. He spent time with family and friends — there are hunting videos to document it — and recuperated. Wentz said it “was big for me” to decompress after starting all 16 games.
He added that he did not have any problems with his elbow last season, experiencing only “general soreness.”
Lately, Wentz had been ready to return to work with teammates. He even watched film of some college prospects but would not name which players or how many.
The draft is next week, and it will be the last big chance for the Eagles to upgrade their roster this season. Wentz said he already is confident that the team that gathered Monday could contend this season.
“We truly believe we have the pieces in place,” Wentz said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us here. It’s early, it’s April still. But we truly believe that.”