Lane Johnson’s COVID-19 struggle was waged against boredom, mostly.
“I was lonely. I had to sit at the house and I was forced to watch Netflix,” Johnson told reporters Sunday on a Zoom call. The Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl right tackle cleared quarantine and returned to the team Aug. 11.
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“I felt like I was catching a fever. I didn’t have a fever; I just had body aches for a couple days, then really, after that, I was fine. I got bored at the house, man. I got really bored. Glad to be back in the building the last couple of days.”
As a 30-year-old professional athlete in top condition, statistically Johnson wasn’t in as much danger as many coronavirus patients, though it is unclear whether he faces long-term complications, such as myocarditis or lung problems.
When Johnson announced his positive test on social media July 29, some observers blamed the Masterminds Offensive Line Summit he had hosted earlier that month at a hotel in Frisco, Texas. Johnson said Sunday that he tested negative during the summit and several times thereafter, and he indicated he does not know how he contracted the coronavirus.
“I tested negative there … got tested multiple times [afterward], got tested when I came back [to Philadelphia]. Felt really good, man,” Johnson said. “But if I had to blame somebody, I’m going to put it on Nate Gerry. I was doing fine until he showed up and came to work out with me. He gets 100% of the blame.”
Johnson was joking about Gerry, a linebacker who was on the team’s COVID-19 reserve list along with Johnson and offensive lineman Jordan Mailata. All three have been cleared and are back with the team.
“The first couple days I didn’t feel so good, but after that, I felt OK,” Johnson said. He still participated in meetings, held virtually, but was not allowed into the NovaCare complex.
“People in here in the building doing stuff, walkthroughs and all that, and I’m sitting there at the house just kind of feeling stranded, but I got through that,” Johnson said. “I got tired of sitting at the damn house. It feels good to be back.”
He added that while training camp normally is drudgery for veterans, this year of the pandemic has changed perspectives. “We’re just happy to be around each other and enjoy that right now,” Johnson said.
Johnson is sure to have a take on nearly anything he is asked about, so reporters were glad to see him on their Zoom screens. Sunday, he endorsed right guard Brandon Brooks’ hints that Brooks might be able to return late this season from the torn left Achilles tendon Brooks suffered on June 15. Last year, Brooks returned in eight months from a right Achilles tear. Brooks, who has developed six-pack abs in honing his body from 350 to 295 pounds, got the boot off his left foot last week.
“I can see him coming in later in the year. As far as his recovery’s going, I know he’s ahead of schedule,” Johnson said. “He’s looking good. I think he’s changed his diet up to try to optimize that recovery.”
Eight months from mid-June is mid-February, but of course, we don’t know the NFL season will start or end on schedule, and just for 2020, teams can bring back an unlimited number of players from injured reserve. So Brooks could come back during the playoffs without being carried on the roster for much of the season, as would previously have been the case.
In the meantime, Johnson will line up next to nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, brought back to play right guard at age 38 after Brooks went down. Johnson said Peters’ biggest challenge in adjusting is “just getting reps in,” given the abbreviated offseason and lack of preseason games. The team’s first padded practice is scheduled for Monday morning.
“We’re going to have live scrimmages, lots of full contact, to simulate the preseason that’s not there. We’re trying to make up for lost time right now,” Johnson said. “The rookies are learning a lot of stuff on the fly.”
Johnson also said that quarterback Carson Wentz, who looks bigger in the upper body these days, “looks good. I think he’s bulked up to about 250. He’s got some of that dad-bod weight on.”
When Wentz spoke with reporters a few weeks back, he said he had added muscle, but he indicated his weight wasn’t much higher than his usually listed 237, at 6-foot-5.
Like Wentz, Johnson used his offseason to get bigger and stronger. The Eagles list Johnson at 6-6, 317. He is a former quarterback who has struggled to keep weight on and has been suspended twice by the league for taking unauthorized substances, though Johnson has said those were honest mistakes.