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July 25, 2017

Carson Wentz loves his new receivers – even if they do suck at golf

For a second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz sure is careful about what he says.

Some can mistake that for a lack of personality – he may not be the biggest character in the locker room, but that's just fine. Others see it as an intentional unwillingness to be open with the public – if you follow him on social media or see how he interacts with fans and the media, you know that's not quite it either.

It's somewhere in between. His weekly press conferences – and this goes for pretty much any NFL quarterback – are 15-minute-long tightrope walks in which he met straddle those two extremes, a constant balance of what he should say and what he could say. 

The end result, unfortunately, is often a boring back-and-forth between Wentz and reporters. It's why he's willing to openly criticize his wide receivers' skills on the golf course, as he did on Tuesday, but deflects when asked if any have stood out so far at camp, like he also did on Tuesday.

"Guys are just making plays," the quarterback said when asked about the latter, unwilling to play favorites because he knows full-well his words will get back to his teammates. "Guys are competing; guys are pushing themselves. And it's just good for these young guys to get out here before [everyone else], dust off the cobwebs as coach would say, and just get back into the swing of things. So guys are just looking good."

It may seem like Wentz didn't understand the question, but he does. He also understands how any potential answer could be interpreted. 

However, when asked specifically about a few of the team's newest offensive weapons, Wentz had more to say. 

•  On rookie WR Mack Hollins: "He's a big body guy. Really smart guy, really smart. So he can kind of play all the positions and help us out. Again, just like all these guys out here, they're all learning together and growing together... He can do a lot of things though."

•  On rookie RB/WR Donnel Pumphrey: "The guy makes plays. He can catch the ball – you've seen him out here – he can catch the ball as smooth as the wide receivers. He can do some different things out of the backfield. He can do a lot of different things so it'll be interesting to see how we use him for sure."

•  On free agent WR Alshon Jeffery: "It's really nice [to have a guy like that]. Having a guy like Alshon, not only his catch radius, but he's got some of the strongest hands I've ever seen. The thing with Alshon and I is that we've just got to keep building that chemistry, building that relationship. ... You can kind of see he's just a different animal, throwing the ball to him. He can cover some ground. It's nice to have a guy like that."

All positive. All the time.

But when talking about his recent trip to Fargo, North Dakota with his wideouts, the tone was quite different.

Wentz poked fun at rookie Shelton Gibson for not being able to stand up on a paddle board. But you won't hear a word from the quarterback about his early struggles this summer that have carried over from minicamp to training camp. At least not a negative one. 

The paddle board story makes for a good lede or funny anecdote in a story. But anything Wentz has to say about his players' on-field performance is going to be analyzed, scrutinized, ripped apart, and then analyzed again. 

After Wentz gave that glorious "guys are just making plays" non-answer you see above, he was asked a follow-up question about specifics players, in case he didn't hear that part the first time. 

"I guess I wouldn't say any one in particular [has stood out]," he said. "It's just good to see – I mean, mistakes are happening, things are happening, but it's just good to just dust off those cobwebs and compete again." 

Now, compare that to what he said when asked about which of his teammates was the best golfer among the two foresomes he took out on the course, a group that according to Wentz looked like "fish out of water" and provided more swings and misses than he's "ever seen."

"I wouldn't say anyone was the best," he said with a laugh. "Who was not the worst? I don't know. Maybe Mack [Hollins]. Probably Mack, out of the wide receivers."

There you have it. In an answer about offseason golf, of all places. Proof that Wentz is capable of identifying one player over the rest. Proof that he's willing to mock his receivers. And proof that he has a personality beyond the robotic quarterback speak we see whenever he stands behind a podium and has a microphone placed in front of him. 

Just don't expect that kind of public judgment to creep into questions about football. You're just going to get more political correctness. The good news is, that's exactly what you want from a franchise quarterback. 

It's that tightrope walk over a mob of hungry reporters and twitter trolls starving for any misstep. And Wentz, entering just his second training camp (and first as the starter), has shown he has the balance needed for the job.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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