McFeely: Being at Super Bowl 'kind of weird' for Wentz
ST. PAUL—It only got a little weird during Carson Wentz's interview session at Super Bowl media day Monday, Jan. 29.
Seated a few rows into the Xcel Energy Center's stands so he could rest his injured left knee, Wentz fielded questions from Fargo reporters and a handful of national types who spotted the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback among the zoo the NFL runs prior to the big game.
Thousands of media people—most earnest and some not so much—swarmed the floor of the hockey arena to get access to athletes and coaches from the Eagles and New England Patriots, who will play Sunday, Feb. 4, for the big prize at U.S. Bank Stadium across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
Thousands of fans sat in the stands of the arena, having paid $32 to watch the players being asked questions. Beer was sold for this event.
That, if you think about it, is weird enough. Some of the NFL's biggest names like Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Malcolm Jenkins, Doug Pederson and Zach Ertz were paraded across a stage and placed behind microphones. Wentz, since he won't be playing, was escorted off to the side and took a seat before the media throng closed in on him. He took questions and talked mostly about his emotions of not being able to play.
And then Deion Sanders, the Hall of Famer known as Prime Time, showed up. He snaked his way through the mini-throng of media to conduct an interview for the NFL Network.
"Carson, how you feeling, man?" Prime Time asked in his familiar raspy voice.
"Good, man. Feeling good," Wentz laughed, not quite knowing what answer Sanders was looking for.
And from there Sanders asked a few questions in Prime Time style, everybody else standing down to give him some space, before wrapping things up. But before he left, Sanders teased Wentz about not taking his phone call.
"One more thing, man. Next time we call you, please accept the call. Please," Prime Time said.
"You got it, bro," Wentz said, again laughing because it again seemed he didn't quite know how to handle Sanders' awkward approach.
Awkward might be the operative word on Wentz' place at the Super Bowl. The former North Dakota State quarterback was the Eagles' star, and candidate for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, for most of the season. Then he suffered a season-ending knee injury in December. Nick Foles took over the starting duties and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl, looking every bit a superstar in a near-perfect game against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship.
But here was Wentz, doing a session with the media even though he'll play no role in the Super Bowl other than cheerleader and semi-coach. He is still a star, but not the star of this show. Wentz is, in some ways, a man without a team and a clear role. He acknowledged the Eagles are Foles' team for now.
"It's kind of weird for me. Last year I went to the Super Bowl and did appearances and everything and I said, 'I ain't coming back until I'm playing in it.'" Wentz said. "Here I am—and I'm actually not playing in it. It's different emotions tonight, but I'm really excited for these guys to experience this and get a taste of it."
Wentz mostly faced questions about his feelings. The word "bittersweet" came up a couple of times. "Unfair" was included in one question. Sunday is going to be a weird day for the Bismarck Century High School product, he admitted. A lifelong dream so close, played in a city not far from home, but he will not be on the field.
"It'll definitely be mixed emotions right away. But again, I've been saying it all week since I've been talking—right when the team takes the field, the offense takes the field, it'll hit me a little bit but once I'm into, we're into it," Wentz said. "I still feel involved for sure. I'm doing everything. I'm going to the meetings, I'm doing everything I can with the team. I'm still taking care of my rehab and my workouts and everything as well. It's just a different feeling for sure."
Wentz is trying hard to balance what he's called the "human element" of being disappointed he can't play with being supportive of the team and Foles. Wentz doesn't hide his strong Christian faith and he said that has helped him through the time since his injury.
“My faith has helped me get through this. Just knowing there is a bigger plan, even though I don’t now understand it and it might make me angry sometimes,” Wentz said. “There’s a bigger plan and it’s going to make me stronger and it’s going to be used somehow, some way.”
If Prime Time’s approach to Wentz was a little different, there was no confusing how Brady -- the five-time Super Bowl winner for the Patriots and perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history -- feels about the North Dakota native.
“He’s a stud, man. He’s a stud,” Brady said. “He’s a great player. Too bad about his injury, obviously. It happens in the NFL. But he’ll be back, better than ever next year.”
Wentz’s time as the center of attention at a Super Bowl will have to wait.