Carson Wentz is back practicing with the Washington Commanders for the first time in more than a month, as he was designated to return to practice today, and things are a little different.
For one, the Commanders have turned their season around, going from a 2-4 start to 6-5 after winning four of the last five games. With six games remaining, the next up being a home matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, the team is knocking on the door of the playoff discussion.
And there's something else: Taylor Heinicke is now the starting quarterback.
It is not what Wentz, who joined the Commanders via trade in March, envisioned when he returned from fracturing his finger (technically, he is still on Injured Reserve until the team activates him), but he gets it. Heinicke and the team are playing well, and he understands the decision to keep Heinicke as the starter is part of the business.
Of course, Wentz wants to be on the field, but he intends to do whatever he can to help Heinicke and the offense succeed.
"I have a great relationship with Taylor and with all the guys," Wentz said. "I've been happy to see him succeed and what he's been able to do."
Heinicke has certainly made the most of his opportunity as the Commanders' starting quarterback, and the team has benefitted from it. His stats are not flashy, but he has shown growth in blending smarter decisions with his tendency to take risks for explosive plays.
All the while, Wentz has been on the sideline offering his expertise to Heinicke, and coach Ron Rivera praised his determination to stay locked into the game plan while going through rehab.
"He's been excellent. He really has," Rivera said. "He's been a true pro. When he first came back, he got behind Taylor right away, got behind Sam [Howell] really helped out in the meetings. He's still very engaged, asking the types of questions that you should ask, and if they aren't asked, he'll ask them. You watch him talking to receivers about their routes, talk to running backs about their angles, talk to the offensive line. He has done a heck of a job being part of it."
That is not going to change now that he is close to being activated.
"I'm gonna still do the same thing going forward now," Wentz said.
Heinicke has appreciated the extra help, too. He said his relationship with Wentz has been great from the moment Wentz arrived in Washington. Heinicke knows the past few weeks have been tough on Wentz as he went through his recovery. Wentz wants to be on the field, but he put his emotions to the side and offered guidance to Heinicke.
"It's a lot of credit to him and speaks to his character," Heinicke said.
There is still no word on when Wentz will be activated; the team has three weeks to decide whether to put him on the active roster or return him on Injured Reserve. Until further notice, Sam Howell will be the backup.
And while Wentz would be lying if he said he did not want to be on the field, he is excited to see how the team is playing in the second half of the season.
"I think it's just cool as the season's gone on...just to see the team kind of find its identity in all three phases, and that's been clicking as of late," Wentz said.
Wentz intends to make sure that he is ready if his number is called upon. He knows anything can happen in the NFL, so he wants to be prepared for any circumstance. Rivera has mentioned that the quarterback situation is on a week-to-week basis, but Wentz is not worried about the "what ifs" that may come.
For now, though, Wentz is just happy to be back.
"I definitely, physically feel good," Wentz said. "For me just to be out there with the guys was fun. I was glad to be out there."