Lane Johnson returns to the Eagles, says depression and anxiety caused him to miss games
In a statement, he said he’s excited to rejoin his teammates and play in front of Eagles fans again.
Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson shed light on the reason for his absence from the team in recent weeks by releasing a statement saying he has dealt with depression and anxiety.
Johnson, 31, has missed the team’s last three games with a “personal matter.” In the statement, he said he’s excited to rejoin his teammates and play in front of Eagles fans again. It’s unclear exactly when he expects to play. The Eagles’ next game is Sunday at the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and support over the last two weeks,” Johnson said in the statement released on social media. “I appreciate the positive notes and messages as I’ve worked hard to restore my personal life. Depression and anxiety are things I’ve dealt with for a long time and have kept hidden from my friends and family. If you’re reading this and struggling, please know that you are not alone.
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“I am excited to rejoin my teammates and coaches,” Johnson added. “I’m grateful for the entire Eagles community and look forward to continuing to play in front of [the] best fans in the world.”
During his weekly interview with WIP-FM (94.1), Eagles coach Nick Sirianni reiterated the support Johnson has from the team as he makes his return.
“Obviously, Lane is a big part of everything we want to do here,” he said. “He’s a great player, great person, I look forward to seeing him in the building and getting him back out there ready to roll.”
Johnson’s first absence came Oct. 3, a few hours before the Eagles’ home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Sirianni said he found out a few hours before the game that Johnson wasn’t available to play. The fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Johnson spent a day at the Eagles facility two weeks ago, before the team left for its game against the Carolina Panthers, but he hasn’t practiced since before the Chiefs game.
“I talked to Lane, I met with him,” center Jason Kelce said last week. “I just wish the best for him, everyone in here loves that guy. He’s such a great personality, a great person to be around, a guy that makes our room a lot more fun and a lot more energetic. He’s obviously a great football player, I wish nothing but the best for him.”
Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks missed two games in 2016 and another in 2019 because of anxiety-induced panic attacks or illnesses. Brooks has been open about his condition, describing it as a fixation with perfection that can lead to debilitating pregame nervousness and sometimes cause him to vomit.
“We’re supposed to be modern-day gladiators, man,” Brooks said in 2019 after missing a game. “We’re getting paid more than the rest of the public. We’re not supposed to have any emotions. We’re supposed to play and do what we’re told. At the end of the day, we’re people. We go through the same things that everybody else goes through, everyday issues that 40 million Americans go through. We’re no different, and when we have issues, the only difference is, it’s front-page news.”
Johnson nearly missed the Eagles’ game in London in 2018 because of pregame anxiety. The former Pro Bowler was dealing with what sources then described as “personal issues,” but he also had been playing on an injured ankle. Johnson expressed doubt that he would be able to go against the Jaguars, and general manager Howie Roseman berated him.
He was eventually persuaded to play but lasted only seven plays before reinjuring his ankle.
Sirianni said he thinks athletes have become transparent about dealing with mental health conditions, which has become more prevalent in recent years because of the growing awareness around the subject.
“With the awareness of everything, and not keeping it inside, I think you do see more of it right now,” Sirianni said. “We just want our players to know that we’re all here to support them at any time. Anything they’re going through, good or bad, that’s what a team does, and that’s what we do here.”
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Brooks is currently on injured reserve with a pectoral strain as the Eagles’ offensive line injury woes continue to pile up. Jack Driscoll filled in for Johnson against Kansas City and Jordan Mailata has moved from the left side to the right since returning from a knee sprain, making Andre Dillard the starting left tackle.
If Johnson returns, Mailata figures to retake his starting left tackle job. The Eagles will still have backups at both guard positions, though, until Brooks’ potential return. The starting left guard, Isaac Seumalo, had season-ending foot surgery for an injury suffered in Week 3.