Carson Wentz taking the right mindset for opportunity in Washington

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Wentz taking the right mindset for opportunity in Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ASHBURN, Va. -- Carson Wentz understands what's at stake.

Entering his third season in as many years with a new franchise, it's not out of line to say that the outlook for the remainder of Wentz's career rides heavily on his 2022 performance in Washington. Hall of Fame passer Troy Aikman has suggested so, too. If Wentz plays well, his long-term future should be in D.C. But if he struggles, it's hard to imagine another franchise handing the keys to Wentz, again, the way Washington has.

Wentz doesn't feel that pressure of what could be a make-or-break season, though, so he says.

"I try not to put too much pressure on myself," Wentz said Wednesday following OTAs. "I always have high expectations for myself and for the offense, but I don't try to play those types of games. I don't have enough mental space to kind of process all that. It can wear on you. So for me, I just show up, try and be the best I can be."

It's been well documented that Wentz's lone season in Indianapolis ended poorly. The Colts were eager to move on so much that when Indianapolis sent Wentz to Washington, the franchise had no immediate successor in place. A few weeks later, after the Colts acquired Matt Ryan, Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard went on the record to say the Colts would have considered moving on from Wentz after 2021, even if the team didn't collapse over the final two weeks of the season and miss the playoffs.

Wentz -- who statistically had the second-best season of his career in 2021 (27 touchdowns, seven interceptions) -- knows he was far from perfect with the Colts. The same goes for during his Eagles tenure, which also ended on a sour note.

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When looking back on those experiences, though, Wentz believes he's learned a lot about himself.

"You're always trying to learn. Always trying to be a better teammate, a better friend," Wentz said. "... Be reflective and say, 'I missed that opportunity to make an impact on a younger guy' or be involved with that teammate, whatever that looks like. I'm always trying to learn and build as good of relationships as I can. ... I'm going to make mistakes. I'll be the first to admit it. I'm always trying to grow, be self-reflective and be a better person in every shape and form."

Since arriving in Washington, Wentz has taken the right mindset in terms of his situation. The 29-year-old made it clear Wednesday that he's taking a day-by-day approach and is focusing solely on what he can control.

That change in mindset can be attributed to Wentz's growth as a person, not just as a player. The quarterback is in a different place in life than he was just a few years ago, something Wentz feels has impacted his approach on the football field.

"I'm older. My family life is different. I've got two kids. Everything has changed," Wentz said. "You mature a little bit, you see the world a little bit differently. Now, this is my third team. All those things. You see a different perspective. It's been fun. But at the same time, I'm an older guy in the locker room. ... Just getting to know guys in a different way, guys from different backgrounds, different seasons of life. Hopefully as a veteran and a leader in the locker room, I can help bring them along. I'm excited for it and it's been a lot of fun."

With the NFL's strict coronavirus policies no longer in place, Wentz and his teammates have had the chance to spend time together away from the facility -- something that wasn't necessarily allowed in both 2020 and 2021. The quarterback has taken advantage of that, as he's had the chance to "go to dinners, go golfing, do all these things to get to know these guys" away from the football field.

Although his previous two stops ended in negative fashion, Wentz has a coaching staff that believes in him in Washington. Throughout OTAs, both Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner have praised the team's new QB whenever they've gotten the chance. That continued on Wednesday.

"I really like his command of our offense," Rivera said following practice. "When you listen to him in the huddle, you listen to him talk to his teammates about certain aspects of the play. He gets it and seeing him getting his teammates lined up and communicating is I think a real positive for us. I know it gives me confidence, but when he is in the huddle calling the plays the way he does, I know his teammates can feel the confidence."

As the Commanders third week of on-field work nears a close, the team's overall belief in Wentz has spread from the coaching staff to the players as well. Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, J.D. McKissic, Antonio Gibson and Kendall Fuller are just a few Commanders that have had positive things to say about Wentz when asked about him.

"He's smart, he's intelligent, he's getting the ball out [and] he can move pretty well in the pocket too," McKissic said last week. "He's looking like that young Carson again."

In Washington, Wentz is the latest quarterback the team has acquired with the hopes of becoming a long-term solution. The Commanders haven't had a true franchise quarterback in nearly three decades. It's one of the main reasons why the last Lombardi Trophy in the building is from 1991.

With an organization like Washington desperate for a franchise quarterback, there's undoubtedly pressure on Wentz to perform. Rivera has already said he feels the team's new quarterback is capable of being the long-term answer. The praise Wentz has received throughout OTAs proves the head coach isn't the only one with that belief, either.

Despite all the positive energy surrounding Wentz in Ashburn, there will still be a lot riding on Wentz's shoulders come September. The team expects to make a leap in Year 3 under Rivera, with a playoff appearance the floor of what could be considered a successful season.

Yet, for Wentz, that pressure has not hit him -- yet.

"I wouldn't say I feel that in the building by any means or at practice or anything," he said. "Listen, I'd like for nothing more than to play here for a long time and have a lot of success, but I'm going to take one day at a time. I'm not going to put that extra added pressure onto myself. [I'm] just going to enjoy it and make the most of it."