Michael Pittman Jr. doesn’t get it. Neither does Jacob Eason. Frankly, no one with the Indianapolis Colts seems to understand where some of the more malicious rumors surrounding Carson Wentz came from. A few of them have admitted to hearing about what allegedly went down in Philadelphia between Wentz and his teammates and they can’t reconcile those rumors with the man they’ve come to know over the past few months.
“I have no idea what everyone else is talking about,” Pittman said Tuesday after Colts practice during their two-week voluntary workout program. “I just see a team guy. He’s always ready to help and just do whatever it takes. He’s been a great guy, a great teammate.”
“He’s done a tremendous job, whether it’s in meetings or in the locker room, he engages guys,” Eason added. “He goes up and introduces himself. He’s one of those guys who can talk to anyone in the locker room. I know there’s stuff being said about this and that in Philly. As far as us, in here, he’s been nothing but great.”
you could say that Pittman and Eason were speaking for the entire team when they said those things, but then again, they don’t really need to. Every Colts player or coach who has been asked about how Wentz has acclimated himself to his new team and new surroundings has voiced similar opinions.
However, most of them don’t bring up Philadelphia, which makes sense. For one, they weren’t there. For another, the most damning report about Wentz’s alleged inability to connect with teammates, the one in the Philly Voice in 2018, was filled with anonymous sources, which were later refuted by many of the team’s veteran leaders, including defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, center Jason Kelce, tight end Zach Ertz and defensive end Chris Long.
Former Eagles captain Malcolm Jenkins told Long on his “Green Light” podcast, shortly after Wentz was traded to the Colts, that the quarterback sometimes needed to reach out more, but he was never the sort of “locker room cancer” he was accused of being.
Wentz himself has addressed this particular topic multiple times since the report came out three years ago, and has repeatedly said he’s always tried to be a good teammate, even if he sometimes fails.
“I’ve learned in this business and in life, you’re just not going to make everyone happy, as much as you want to,” Wentz said at his first news conference as a Colt. “It’s unfortunate that people have those opinions, but I’m going to learn from it and try to be the best teammate I can be, and if any of my teammates out there don’t think I was the best teammate, I apologize. I wish I could be better.”
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In Indianapolis, so far, Wentz has nothing to apologize for. He’s drawn rave reviews from his new teammates, many of whom have been heartened that he’s reached out to them during the offseason — either simply to introduce himself, to organize a get-together, or both.
T.Y. Hilton wasn’t even officially a Colt when Wentz started texting him. The veteran wide receiver was still sitting on the free agent market when Wentz was shooting him messages: “I want you to be here. I want to throw passes to you.”
That meant a lot to Hilton, and after he signed his new deal with the Colts, the two got together for a throwing session. They’ve been working to grow their bond ever since. That type of work will continue, even once these two weeks of voluntary workouts end — not just with Hilton but with almost all of the Colts receivers, Zach Pascal said.
They’ve already been planning on getting together and continuing to work, something that has caught the eye of Pascal.
“He’s a guy that likes to work,” he said, “so that just blends in perfectly with everybody on the team.”
Pittman sees the same thing from Wentz: “He’s so dialed in. It’s like he’s on a mission. … He’s so focused on whatever it is, proving himself, winning a Super Bowl, whatever it is, he’s lasered in.”
Among the other major takeaways from their initial interactions with Wentz, one that is also quickly endearing him to the wide receivers in particular, is his big arm.
Hilton has already talked about how seeing Wentz’s arm strength in practice has him pumped up about catching more deep balls than he has in recent years. Over the past two seasons, Hilton’s average yards per reception have been the two lowest of his career (11.1 and 13.6) by a wide margin. Hilton wouldn’t dive into details, but it’s safe to say he is expecting that number to be much higher this season — perhaps closer to what he had during his Pro Bowl years with Andrew Luck, whom he has compared to Wentz.
Pascal just laughed when talking about Wentz’s arm, saying he thinks Wentz might be able to sling it 80-100 yards on a good day.
Pittman remembers the first time he realized how strong Wentz’s right arm was — either his first or second throwing session with the new Colts quarterback in california, when Wentz fired a 65-yard post at him.
“I was like, Oh my gosh! I really gotta dig down and run!” Pittman laughed.
Obviously, it’s still early days, and Wentz skeptics would perhaps rightly point out that his teammates are going to say only nice things about him. That’s fair. The reality is that Wentz’s bona fides as a teammate and a leader will be tested — just as they are for all players — when he and the team face adversity during the season. How he comports himself then will matter most.
But for now, it’s fair to say his teammates raving about him is better than the alternative.
Follow IndyStar Colts Insider Jim Ayello on Twitter: @jimayello.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts QB Carson Wentz drawing rave reviews from teammates at practice