BETHLEHEM, Pa. - All the speculation about what was keeping Shawn Andrews from joining his Eagles teammates at training camp finally got to him, so yesterday the two-time Pro Bowl guard decided it was time to talk about his "personal issue."
Depression that has required medical treatment prevented the 6-foot-5, 335-pound offensive lineman from reporting to work at Lehigh University.
"After finally deciding to get professional help, I felt like maybe talking about my situation could be a blessing to someone else going through the same things," Andrews said yesterday from his home in Arkansas. "Regardless of whether you're a celebrity or you play for the Philadelphia Eagles and you're in the limelight, you still go through problems."
Andrews, despite tremendous career success during his first four seasons in the NFL, has also endured some serious life trauma. Before the 2007 season, he lost a 23-year-old overweight friend to a heart attack, which spurred his own desire to lose weight and eat healthier.
His brother Derrick, serving in the Army, has done two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Andrews, 25, said he also had a gun pulled on him several times in Philadelphia, the most recent being during the Eagles' playoff run in January 2007.
He also became a father for the first time in the spring when his son, Shawn, was born.
"A lot of things in my life have happened even since I've come to Philadelphia," Andrews said. "Random people have pulled out a gun on me. One time during the playoffs, some guy walked from around a building and said: 'You're going to the Pro Bowl? [Expletive] him, he's not going to the Pro Bowl.' Luckily, I was talking to someone, and I didn't hear him. If I heard it, I think I'd have been on the ground."
The fifth-year player wouldn't elaborate on all his problems, but conceded that he had not always had a good sense of himself.
"I've just had a lot of thoughts and questions going through my mind about a lot of things, some things I'm embarrassed to talk about," he said. "But even dating back to when I was growing up . . . people made fun of me. I always wanted people to think I was more than what I was.
"When I got into the [NFL], I wanted to be man enough to admit that, but I tried to use material things to say who I was. I know now that some of the happiest times in my life were when I didn't have a pot to piss in. I'm hoping this is just part of my growing process."
Andrews said that he is scheduled to see a psychiatrist Thursday in Philadelphia, and that he recently started taking medication for depression. He conceded, however, that he resisted initial offers of help.
"I've actually just started to take a little medication," he said. "I've never been a big fan of medication, but at this point in my life, I feel like every little bit helps. I was at the end of the road."
A friend, Andrews said, referred him to the Philadelphia-area psychiatrist in June before he left the Eagles' final spring camp and returned to his home state of Arkansas, but he decided against treatment.
"My pride got in the way," Andrews said. "I didn't want anybody to see me walking into a psych clinic. Professionals aren't always the answer. Sometimes, just talking things out helps. And now with all the rumors coming out, it has only made things worse.
"Some of the comments really got to me. You always hear guys say that they don't care what people think, and sometimes I don't about certain things. But in the grand scheme, I want people to think positive about me."
The initial speculation was that Andrews wanted a new contract, but both his agent, Rich Moran, and the Eagles immediately dismissed that notion. Moran also denied speculation that Andrews didn't want to risk injury by taking part in the contact part of training camp, which ended with yesterday's workout.
Andrews said his decision was all about depression.
"That's the ultimate reason I wasn't at camp," he said. "I would have been there physically, but mentally, I wouldn't have been an asset to my team or myself. I could have got myself or one of my teammates hurt."
There was also speculation that Andrews didn't want to report to training camp because he was overweight again, a problem that plagued him during his college career at Arkansas and his first two NFL seasons.
"For a while I didn't work out, and I didn't put my weight back on," Andrews said. "I went about a month, and I only gained two pounds. But I started working out again and that helped me through some things. I'm still 335 and in shape."
Andrews said he hoped to be cleared to return after meeting with his doctor Thursday.
"I really miss being around the guys," Andrews said. "I really do miss a lot of aspects of the game. But my story, everything is real. If I sit here and lie to you, I'm lying to myself. Hopefully, the doctor will give me the OK to play, but I won't say everything is OK if it isn't."
Andrews said the Eagles had been fining him $15,000 a day since he did not report to training camp, a total that would now be at $180,000.
"That's college money for my son, but whatever the number is, that hasn't been my focus," Andrews said. "I know the value of a dollar. I come from a household of four where the weekly income was 200 or 300 dollars a week. I just felt my mental health was more important than a dollar."
Eagles coach Andy Reid addressed the situation briefly after the team's morning practice yesterday, saying that he had spoken to Andrews and reiterating that the guard's absence was unexcused.
Though Reid publicly seemed bothered by his Pro Bowl guard's absence, Andrews indicated the coach had understood his problems during their phone conversations.
"I think every time we've talked, he became more sensitive that I do have issues going on," Andrews said. "I'll admit that I said some things around my teammates that have created some of the rumors that have been going on, but a lot of that was said out of anger. I said I might give football up because I didn't know how to handle my anger. This really has taken a toll on me mentally."
Andrews, who has recently added to his collection of tattoos, said that was also a reflection of what he had been going through.
"I think that was just part of me trying to identify myself," he said. "I've always felt like I was different. I feel like I'm an abstract person, and I still wonder who Shawn Andrews is. That's why you always see me joking around. Being around people and singing activates my fun side.
"At the end of the day, this doesn't take away from my fun side, but it has for the time being."