What History Tells Us About Carson Wentz’s Recovery

Week one of the NFL season is in the books and I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty incredible about where the Eagles stand. The Birds beat a team in the Falcons that should be very good, New York probably (hopefully) shouldn’t pose a threat, and all I’ll say about Dallas is how bout’ them Cowboys (I’ll also say that they looked really bad and I think they might stink)! I have to remind you now, though, that Carson Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in week 14 against the Rams last season. I only had to remind you of that because Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported during Sunday’s games that Carson Wentz could realistically be back in week three, so if you were mad at me for reminding you than you shouldn’t be. That report honestly isn’t a sure fire indicator that he will return in week three, it’s just saying that it’s realistic that he could. What does realistic even really mean anyway? The report could’ve been that Carson realistically won’t be ready, and it would’ve essentially meant the same thing. In any case, as a sane Eagles fan, I’m going to take this news and fully expect Wentz to return in week three. Because of this expectation, I decided to take a look back at quarterbacks who have torn their ACL to gain a baseline on what to expect from Carson Wentz this season when he does return, and if we should expect his performance to falter.

 

Carson Wentz

Injury: Suffered on December 10th, 2017; torn ACL, torn LCL, partially torn IT [iliotibial] band, some meniscus damage

Surgery: December 13th, 2017

Return: TBA

According to NovaCare Doctor Milt Zgonis, who spoke to 94WIP back in December, having the IT band and meniscus damage on top of the torn ACL and LCL is not uncommon. In fact, he claimed that it happens around 50% of the time, and that there shouldn’t be cause for concern that it will complicate his recovery. The other quarterbacks I will discuss who have suffered tears have no public information on if they suffered an IT band tear as well, but some have also had MCL or LCL tears accompanying their ACL injury, so their recoveries may bear more weight and I will prioritize those to reflect this. Carson is going on eight months since his initial tear, and the usual timeline for recovery is 9-12 months. Many of these quarterbacks mentioned have come back sooner than that, but it’s important to note that these recoveries can vary from individual to individual, and that the extent of the injuries are likely unique to the individual as well.

 

Carson Palmer

First Tear

Injury: January 8th, 2006; torn ACL, torn MCL, meniscus damage

Surgery: January 10th, 2006

Return: August 28th, 2006

Recovery Time: 7 months

Carson Palmer returned to action only seven months after his initial tear, which included other damage in his knee, similar to the damage Wentz has had in his. Let’s take a look at his statistics in the season the injury occurred, and the season that he returned.

The highlighted seasons are the ones you want to be looking at. As you can see, the drop off in his statistics aren’t significant at all, and Palmer essentially returned in the same form he was in before the tear. On almost the same number of attempts, he experienced a slight 5% dip in his completion percentage, but it’s nothing drastic enough to say that the knee was the cause of this. Overall, it’s hard to say if the tear had any real affect on his performance, but the numbers certainly don’t show that it did.

Verdict Regarding Carson: Reassuring

Robert Griffin III

Injury: January 6th, 2013; torn ACL, torn LCL

Surgery: January 9th, 2013

Return: September 9th, 2013

Recovery Time: 8 months

RG3 had one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent memory until his unfortunate injury. Almost all of his counting statistics took a dip in his return season, and his team performed significantly worse. Griffin actually suffered a mild LCL sprain before the ACL tear, but because of his insistence on going back in and Mike Shanahan’s willingness to let him play hurt, the injury became far worse. Griffin’s story is the worst case scenario for any quarterback suffering an ACL tear: a mobile QB who relies on his legs and puts himself in scenarios that can lead to further injury. We know that Carson Wentz is a mobile quarterback whose ability to navigate the field with his legs is in large part what makes him so special. Thankfully, Carson has far better tools and awareness than RG3 has, particularly in the pocket, so it will be on him and the offense to keep him in situations where his knees are less susceptible to hits and damage. Robert Griffin’s case is the nightmare scenario for Eagles fans, but the Redskins were far more careless with their QB than the Eagles have been with theirs. With the Eagles defense looking as dominant as it has been, and the division being seemingly weak, it offers all the more reason for the Eagles to be cautious with Wentz, even if it means his return being pushed back beyond week three.

Verdict Regarding Carson: Alarming

Tom Brady

Injury: September 7th, 2008; torn ACL, torn MCL

Surgery: October 6th, 2008

Return: August 13th, 2009

Recovery Time: 10 months (suffered tear in week one though, so he had all season and offseason to recover)

Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and has always been fairly stationary. Comparing him to Wentz isn’t totally fair, considering he’s been arguably the GOAT before and after the ACL tear. What we can discuss though, is the fact that his recovery was much more problematic than Carson’s has been. Brady suffered a staph infection that required multiple surgeries. This was seriously alarming for the quarterback at the time, as the belief was that these could cause a long lasting impact. Brady bounced back just fine though, and showed almost no signs that he suffered a tear to begin with. With any luck, Carson will bounce  back in similar fashion.

Verdict Concerning Carson: Reassuring

Joe Flacco

Injury: November 22nd, 2015; torn ACL, torn MCL

Surgery: December 8th, 2015

Return: August 27th 2016

Recovery Time: 8 months

Joe “Mr. Elite” Flacco played six less games in 2015 than 2016, but his completion percentage, touchdown percentage, and mostly every other non-per game stat is nearly identical. By all judgments, Flacco showed no ill signs in his game after his return from surgery. He did, however, make an interesting point during his rehab that should be considered when thinking about Carson’s return. Flacco told NFL Network at the time when he was coming back, “It’s funny, when I’m out there running around and cutting on it and doing those things, there is no tentativeness, because I didn’t hurt it that way, I hurt it getting hit.” Remind you of anyone? The mental aspect of a torn ACL is something Wentz will have to go through and overcome, and as Sixers fans will tell us, watching a player coming off a serious injury can be anxiety-inducing. For Wentz, and us, we’ll all breathe a lot easier once he pops back up after that first hit.

Verdict Concerning Carson: Reassuring

 

Donovan McNabb

Injury: November 19th, 2006; torn ACL

Surgery: November 28th, 2006

Return: August 17th, 2007

Recovery Time: 9 months

McNabb’s Passing Stats

McNabb’s numbers, like a lot of guys on this list, look largely similar before and after his injury. He also had Terrell Owens before the tear, and afterwards his best receivers were Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis, which isn’t exactly stellar. McNabb’s recovery and return can give us a window into how a QB who liked to use his legs faired when he came back.

McNabb’s Rushing Stats

Before his injury, McNabb averaged 3.2 rushing attempts per game. Afterward, he averaged 3.6. An ACL tear didn’t deter McNabb from attempting to use his legs anymore. His yards per attempt and his yards per game did however go down. Some may argue that’s because he lost a step, but the truth is his rushing numbers were already going down before the ACL injury. Wentz attempted 4.9 rushes last season, so if the only symptom he has is those numbers going down, Eagles fans will be able to sleep easy.

Verdict Concerning Carson: Reassuring

Philip Rivers

Injury: January 13th, 2008; torn ACL

Surgery: January 23rd, 2008

Return: August 9th, 2008

Recovery Time: 7 months* (played through it and then returned to practice three months after surgery)

 

Rivers ACL story is going to go down as a myth that people in fifty years tell their grandchildren except the grandchildren won’t believe them because it’s so outlandish. Philip Rivers not only played through the injury in a playoff game, but after he finally underwent surgery he returned to practice three months later. That probably sounds like an indicator of a guy coming back too soon and risking re-injury, but not with Rivers. In 2008, he had his best statistical season to date, topping 4,000 yards and scoring 34 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. I’m not sure if this gives us any valuable data regarding Wentz, because I’m not exactly sure Rivers is human.

Verdict Regarding Carson: Reassuring, I guess

 

What’s it Mean for Wentz?

Outside of Robert Griffin III, every one of these guys came back from their ACL tears and returned to their previous form. I should mention that I excluded Sam Bradford because he experienced two ACL tears in back to back seasons. While his career hasn’t gone where many people projected it to, it’s not exactly a no-brainer to pinpoint that on his knee injuries. As long as the Eagles and Wentz have been careful and diligent about his rehab, there shouldn’t be any reason to worry that his performance will do anything worse than take a slight dip. Recent history is in Carson’s favor, and whether or not he’s back by week three, the most important thing is that he comes back fully healthy.