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Commanders designate QB Carson Wentz to return to training

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The Washington Commanders have selected quarterback Carson Wentz to return to practice Wednesday, bringing him one step closer to returning as a possible replacement for Taylor Heinicke. The team has 21 days to activate it and have it available on matchdays.

The team put the veteran quarterback on injured reserve after breaking his finger in Week 6 against the Chicago Bears. He played the entire game and had surgery days later in Los Angeles. Wentz said Wednesday he didn’t feel too uncomfortable during that game and didn’t realize he shook his hand throughout the night.

“Adrenaline is a damn good thing,” he said.

But after the game, Wentz knew something was wrong and X-rays confirmed a fracture.

Heinicke took over as starting commanders in Week 7 and took a 4-1 lead, showing enough to earn the job going forward. Coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that rookie Sam Howell will serve as a backup on Sunday when the Commanders host the Atlanta Falcons. After Wentz is activated, Rivera said he will make the backup decision “one game at a time.”

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Wentz said his finger felt “really good” and he’d been throwing for two weeks, but neither he nor Rivera gave a timeline as to when it might be activated and available on game days.

The quarterback said the injury and its timing, a win at Thursday Night Football, was a challenge. He also said the past six weeks have been “a journey” and he understands Rivera’s decision to stay with Heinicke.

“We had a pretty short chat, pretty to the point, and it was okay,” Wentz said. “I get it. I get it. That’s part of the business and I totally understand where we are as a team and everything else. Obviously as a competitor you want to be out there. … But at the same time I have a great relationship with Taylor and too to all the guys and i was happy to see him succeed and see what he was able to achieve i will do what i can to help him and support him and be a part of it and stay ready because this league is crazy. Things happen.”

Both Rivera and Heinicke praised Wentz for his support and handling of the news, which marked a strong contraction in reports from Philadelphia in 2020 about his reaction to the bench for Jalen Hurts and his relationship with some teammates in the aftermath.

“You’re trying not to let circumstances and situations change you just because you’re hurt, just because X, Y and Z,” Wentz said. “You try to be the same person every day, day after day.”

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“He was at all the meetings and training; He helped me a lot,” said Heinicke. “Since he’s been here, our relationship has been great. And I understand it must have been tough for him the past few weeks but he put that aside and helped me a lot.”

Wentz invites his teammates to Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner.

“My wife has everything planned for Thanksgiving, so I can’t praise that,” Wentz said with a smile. “I’m just going to show up and eat really well.”

Washington traded for Wentz in March and expressed hope that after years of rotation through starters, he would be his long-term answer at quarterback. As part of the deal, the Commanders gave up a conditional third-round pick for 2023, which could turn into a second-round pick depending on Wentz’s tenure. His continued absence calls that into question.

The Commanders are tied to Wentz this season because of his $22 million salary. But he has no guaranteed money going forward, which would allow the team to continue after the season and not pay a cap.

Wentz said he’s not even thinking as far ahead as next week.

“I try not to play all these games in my head because you can drive yourself crazy,” he said. “…You’re starting to think big—what’s next year? – you think about careers, you think about all these things, and then I try [hold] back in and say, ‘Just be present. Be present, be positive, be where I am. Next week will take care of itself.’ ”

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