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Tucker’s Takes: Carson Wentz’s injury impact and the surgery decision

Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker discusses the fallout for the Indianapolis Colts as QB Carson Wentz undergoes foot surgery ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Carson Wentz #2 of the Indianapolis Colts runs a drill during the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp at Grand Park on July 29, 2021 in Westfield, Indiana. Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The odds are stacked against Carson Wentz.

The new quarterback in Indianapolis was eager for a fresh start with the Colts after a disastrous 2020 campaign in Philadelphia. This was not the start he was hoping for.

Per NFL Network’s Mike Silver, Wentz suffered a foot injury that involved damage to both a bone and a ligament at the end of practice on Thursday. Silver also reported that Wentz felt a “pop” when the injury happened which is never a good sign and always an ominous sign for anyone that has ever had that happen to them.

Despite Wentz “facing the prospect of surgery,” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport, Wentz reportedly was strongly considering rest and rehab for his injury with the hopes of being available to play in Week 1.

Ultimately, the decision was made to have the surgery and the Colts are putting a 5-12 week timeline on his recovery.

Although it was clearly a difficult decision for Wentz for a myriad of reasons, it certainly seems to me like the right one.

In my experience, both personally and from seeing other players in similar situations, it feels like the “rest and rehab” strategy almost always eventually leads to surgery anyway with a high percentage of those players wishing they had just gotten the surgery right away. Heck, I’m one of them.

The way I see it, there are really three possible outcomes in situations like these.

Pain management and play well

The first is that the player is able to rest and rehab the injury well enough that they can then manage it to the point that they still play effectively throughout the season. Tom Brady playing with a knee that needed surgery last year seems like a good example of this. Like pretty much everything else involving Brady, however, he is more the exception than the rule.

Pain management and play poorly

Plausible scenario number two is the player is able to play with the injury but they are not able to play to the same level as their previous standard. Considering how poorly Wentz played a year ago this would be especially concerning for the Colts. I think Drew Brees this past season probably falls into this category. He had a number of injuries that we only found out about after the season and he was still able to play fairly well but he clearly wasn’t the Brees we had grown accustomed to.

Bite the bullet and get the surgery now

The final scenario also appears to be the most likely; the player is not able to play through the injury and ends up having surgery anyway. Most of the time all they really did was delay the inevitable. My guess is the Colts convinced Wentz that there was a high percentage chance that this would be the case with him and that every day he delayed having the surgery was really just cutting into the amount of regular season time he’d miss if he simply elected to have the surgery now.

I suppose in 2004 and 2005 I fell into categories two and three. I was diagnosed late in the 2004 season with a disc injury in my back. I was able to play through it but not as well as I would have liked because of how stiff it made me. After the season, we elected to try to let it heal on its own but that never happened, and waiting to have the surgery in late April effectively cost me most of the 2005 season.

It’s hard not to imagine what Wentz must be feeling and why he wanted to try to avoid missing any time. Coming off last year’s horrific experience he was determined to get off to a good start in Indy even if that included trying to play through an injury that NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo had said would limit his mobility.

Combine that desire for a fresh start with Wentz’s lengthy injury history and track record with backup quarterbacks who fill in for him and it’s easy to see why Wentz was so desperate to not let any of those narratives come to the forefront again.

But what are the odds that Wentz would play well with an injury like this, especially after last season’s debacle? Wentz is not Tom Brady or Drew Brees or even Philip Rivers for that matter in terms of being a quarterback that gets the ball out of his hands from the pocket quickly. He’s at his best when he is on the move, outside of the pocket, extending plays. Based on Garafolo’s report, that wasn’t going to be a possibility had he played through the injury.

While the Colts win total has already dropped from 9.5 to 9, I don’t think this news really affects that in a negative way. In other words, you should have taken the under 9.5 when you had the chance because now there is both the chance that Wentz misses only a couple of games, if any, and the strong possibility the Colts add a veteran quarterback to start the season.

Nick Foles was basically pleading with the Colts to trade for him when talking to the media on Monday and his track record of success under Frank Reich is well documented.

Which, of course, is probably part of the reason Wentz wanted to try to play on the injury before ultimately making a decision that by all accounts appears to be a wise one.