For the first time in weeks, No. 65 could be seen at Eagles practice.
Even from two fields away, Lane Johnson could be spotted at the back of the team’s stretching lines during Wednesday’s practice. He was a limited participant in the team’s first padded practice in almost two weeks.
The 31-year-old right tackle missed the last three games due to depression and anxiety, as he revealed Monday. He last practiced with the team Oct. 1 before being a surprise inactive for the road game against the Kansas City Chiefs two days later.
Even though Johnson rejoined the team at the start of the week, coach Nick Sirianni wouldn’t commit to him playing Sunday at Las Vegas and said he was limited Wednesday because of the extended layoff.
“We’re taking that day by day,” Sirianni said. “Just really excited that he’s back in the building, back with his teammates, and just super excited to see his face every day.”
Sirianni also reiterated the emphasis he places on connection across the team — his “first core value” — when asked how the coaching staff has prioritized the conversations about mental health with the players.
“The first thing with all our conversations with players is we want to start with connecting,” Sirianni said. “Connecting has to go beyond what you do on the field. It has to go into your personal lives, family, has to go into anything. Anything our players deal with, we want to be there for them. I feel like again, that’s what we’ve based everything on, is this first of our core values of connecting. So, yeah, I feel good that we’ve been able to be there for our guys through ups and downs, and we’ll continue to be there.”
Inside the locker room, safety Rodney McLeod said Johnson has been hearing from several players who have offered their support as well.
“It’s deeper than football,” McLeod said. “We understand that he has some things that he has to work on before he can return to play. I think we all have accepted that and just supported him and put our arms around him, honestly. Everybody’s expressed, ‘I’m here for you. I’m a shoulder to lean on, I’m here to listen to you.’ I think it opens your eyes to a lot of issues that guys face. We play this sport, we sacrifice so much, and you never know what it takes away from an individual.”
Count Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts as one of those players.
“You be supportive and give respect where it’s deserved,” said Hurts, who spent parts of the offseason working out with his fellow former Oklahoma Sooner at Johnson’s South Jersey home. “For a guy like Lane, everybody goes through something. ... Me being a friend of his, I just wanted to be there for him. I’m happy he’s OK and happy he’s back.”
It’s unclear when the Eagles will determine Johnson’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
During the portion of practice open to the media, Johnson worked at times with the first-team offensive line as the group worked on pass sets and combo-blocking scenarios. He got most of his reps with Jack Driscoll, who is expected to start at right guard until Brandon Brooks returns from injured reserve.
If Johnson is able to play, it will likely slide Jordan Mailata back to the left tackle job he earned coming out of training camp and return Andre Dillard to the backup left tackle role. In Johnson’s absence, Mailata has started each of the last two games at right tackle to accommodate Dillard staying on the left side, where he’s more comfortable.
During the early part of practice Wednesday, Mailata and Dillard split reps on the left side with Mailata working more with rookie Landon Dickerson, the presumptive starter at left guard for the rest of the season now that Isaac Seumalo is out for the year.
Goedert still on COVID-19 list, Jackson returns to practice
Dallas Goedert’s time as the Eagles’ featured tight end is off to a quiet start.
After the Eagles traded Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, both Sirianni and general manager Howie Roseman acknowledged the move would allow Goedert to establish himself as the No. 1 tight end and take on more playing time.
On Wednesday, though, Goedert wasn’t at practice. The 26-year-old was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list last week and has yet to be taken off it, meaning he hasn’t had two negative tests 24 hours apart as the league requires.
If Goedert isn’t ready to return by Sunday, the Eagles would be considerably light at tight end heading into Vegas. Jack Stoll is the only tight end on the active roster, although undrafted free agent Tyree Jackson practiced Wednesday after the team opened up the 21-day window for him to work his way off injured reserve. The team also brought back veteran tight end Richard Rodgers to the practice squad.
The 6-foot-7 Jackson, a converted quarterback out of the University of Buffalo, was a training camp standout before suffering a back injury. Considering he’d only switched to tight end that summer, Jackson was making a surprisingly quick transition.
His play during the practice sessions was enough for Roseman to cite his development during camp as part of the rationale for moving on from Ertz.
“The surprise of camp — and it was just camp because we didn’t see it in the preseason games — was Tyree,” Roseman said. “Just seeing how he’s working to get back, and the skills that he has in his body.”