Looking relaxed and in football shape, Eagles right guard Shawn Andrews met with the media yesterday afternoon for the first time since reporting to training camp and discussed his battle with clinical depression.
Andrews, 25, described himself as being "lost" and "alone," admitting he was "on the edge" because he was too afraid to confront his illness with outsiders. About two weeks ago, he opened up to a mentor, whom he would not identify.
"My mentor, who I have known for nine years and never opened up to, he basically came to my house," Andrews said. "I was in my room talking to people and thinking. They were very concerned. I was on the edge. Things weren't going well. I felt I must open up before it's too late."
Asked whether being on the edge meant he was thinking of suicide, Andrews said: "I won't say that I contemplated suicide, but I had some very - in my mind - unrealistic thoughts about a lot of things. I was really lost and just really felt there was no outlet. My mom was there, but I wanted the rest of her life to be worry-free, and I tried to keep everything from her. I just felt alone."
Last week during training camp at Lehigh University, Andrews addressed his teammates. He said he was relieved to be welcomed back without prejudice, noting that coach Andy Reid "really showed me he cared, and that meant a lot to me."
"I've gone through a lot of things," Andrews said. "I have the support of my teammates. It feels good to get back on the field and be around the guys. I'm very confident [of their support]. If there is anyone who doubts me, no one shows it. There's been nothing but support here. . . . I feel back at home."
Reid did not rule out that Andrews could be in the lineup for Friday night's preseason game in New England against the Patriots.
"You could tell that he's been working and looks strong," Reid said, adding that he is proceeding cautiously with Andrews, not stressing football but his player's mental health.
"You know what? We just communicate with him," Reid said. "That's the important thing right now - keep open communication. Like I said, he's got a good support staff right now, and I think he's in a good place. We'll see how it works out.
"Right now, he is very upbeat and positive. He feels better, looks better. In just the couple of days that he's been here, we've seen a little bit of sense of relief when you're talking to him."
When Andrews met with the coaching staff at Lehigh, the emphasis was on putting a "support" system in place, not on football.
"[When] he moved up here and got on that same route, and when we felt that he was in a good place, we talked about the football part of it," Reid said. "That's kind of what's taken the time. You get into these things, the football part is secondary to the person. We want to make sure that person's all right."
Andrews apologized to Reid for all the rumors about his absence from camp.
"There were a lot of rumors and, like I said, I admitted to my teammates that I created a lot of those rumors," Andrews said. "At the time, Coach Reid didn't know. People were saying contract, or he didn't want to play football anymore. I admit I created those rumors just out of a lot of frustration.
"I didn't care what people thought. They really didn't know. They have a guy who is quick-tempered. It was to the point where I didn't really care anymore. That wasn't the real me. I didn't realize what I was going through."
Reid described Andrews' attitude now as "upbeat."
"Now that he's been here, he's been received by his teammates, and really the people that he's run into outside the building, in a very positive manner," Reid said. "So you can see a little bit of the stress that he was carrying in his face; he's got a little relief there. That's a positive thing, I think."
Andrews is 6-foot-4 and played at 330 pounds last season and is 331 now. The fifth-year lineman out of Arkansas said he feels in shape despite missing camp.
"I've been using my emotions and aggressions in my workouts," he said. "I'm feeling pretty strong. That 331 is lighter than what I would be playing."
Andrews said he had spoken to enough people about his condition that he felt "a weight" was no longer upon him. He said he sifted through letters, e-mails and message boards, and tried to ignore the "bad" comments while cherishing the "good" ones.
"I've received a lot of phone calls from public figures and people who have gone through what I'm going through," Andrews said, acknowledging that safety Brian Dawkins had suffered from depression earlier in his career. "I've also learned that, among African American men, and really men, period, we just hold things in. Whether it's a football player or a man, you are still like: 'I'm a man, nothing bothers me.' But if you internalize it, it has to come out somewhere.
"People question my silliness, but I'm a fun-loving guy. Being around people, I don't care what creed you are, it just ignites my silliness. You'll never know if I'm hurting on the inside. I found out."
He said he wants to play on Friday.
"I would love to play against the Patriots," Andrews said. "It feels good to be around my teammates."