An important piece of the Eagles roster returned to the team Monday when offensive tackle Lane Johnson released a statement and explained his recent extended absence. Johnson shed light on the reason he was away from the team in the last few weeks in a statement saying he has dealt with depression and anxiety.

Johnson, 31, who has missed the team’s last three games because of a “personal matter,” said he was excited to rejoin his teammates and play in front of Eagles fans again. The Eagles could use a veteran presence right now, and Johnson, a nine-year veteran, has performed at a high level in the past, including three Pro Bowl seasons from 2017-19.

Johnson’s courage in speaking out about his mental health condition is something to applaud — and that’s what Eagles fans will surely do once he returns to the field.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

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On the Fly

Hak is back.

Former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol returned to Philadelphia on Monday night as head coach of the expansion Seattle Kraken.

At least this time he remembered to go to the right locker room.

“I took a turn towards the wrong door. But I’ve got it down,” Hakstol said, referring to a previous visit to the Wells Fargo Center when he was an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On this night, Hakstol might have wished he was back in the home locker room, as the Flyers gave the Kraken a smackin’ in a 6-1 victory.

Next: The Flyers host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (TNT). The Bruins have played just one game, a 3-1 win over Dallas on Saturday.

Early Birds

Let’s talk about Lane Johnson, and let’s talk about mental health. That’s the conversation that Johnson is enabling as he starts opening up about the reasons he hasn’t been able to play in the Eagles’ last three games. And that’s a good thing, columnist Mike Sielski writes.

When teammate Brandon Brooks spoke out about his own mental health struggles two years ago, he was a successful offensive lineman standing up and saying it was OK to say you’re not doing OK. Now it’s Johnson joining that fight.

Off the Dribble

Ben Simmons made another appearance at Sixers practice, but this day featured his first sighting on the court with teammates since last season’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. For a second straight day, Simmons participated in drills and wore team garb. He continues to reintegrate with the team after a trade demand and two-week holdout, but to what end? It still remains unclear when he will play, and coach Doc Rivers said Monday that he hasn’t thought about whether Simmons will play in Wednesday’s season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Next: Simmons is expected talk during Tuesday’s media availability, according to the team. It would be his first public speaking engagement since last season.

Extra Innings

Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola was not good in 2021. It’s that simple. And it’s easy to point to him as one of the primary culprits — along with Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm — for another Phillies season that fell short of the postseason. But the numbers suggest there’s more to the story. The stats show — and a few National League scouts agree — that bad luck is partly to blame for the former Phillies ace’s forgettable year. Could a 2022 rebound be in the cards?

Nola figures to be back with the Phillies in 2022, but who is likely on the outs? Scott Lauber and Matt Breen make their predictions on who stays and who goes.

Fleet Street

What if it was possible for Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe to have played in twice the number of World Cups? That’s a scenario that’s plausible if the FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament takes place every two years instead of the current four. Some critics argue it cheapens the World Cup experience to change the frequency, but former U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis says that option could give the women’s game a bigger platform.

Next: Don’t miss our soccer television listings to keep up on the best games at home and abroad.

Worth a look

Philly’s latest champion: A native of North Philly, Kahleah Copper rarely ventured too far away from her hometown. She played at Rutgers and was drafted by the Washington Mystics. But that changed when she was traded to the Chicago Sky — and so did her career. After struggling to find her place, Copper is now a WNBA champion and Finals MVP.

Brutal schedule awaits Penn State: The uncertainty the Nittany Lions faced in the first half of this football season involved how the offense would perform in Mike Yurcich’s new system. Now as the second half of the season begins, the uncertainty for the Nittany Lions deals more with injuries and, specifically, the number of games quarterback Sean Clifford will miss after taking a shot in the ribs from Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell.

Villanova opens at No. 4 in AP preseason poll: Villanova, which returns four starters from the team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season, was ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press preseason top-25 men’s basketball poll released Monday. The Wildcats trailed only No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Kansas in the initial poll of media members.