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Lane Johnson trusted phone app; common sense would have been better

Lane Johnson said on Monday that he started taking an amino acid supplement - a brand apparently with a substance banned by the NFL - a few months ago. The Eagles tackle said he used the product for "pretty much the whole summer." He said he would add the amino acid powder to water and drink it all day.

Lane Johnson said on Monday that he started taking an amino acid supplement - a brand apparently with a substance banned by the NFL - a few months ago. The Eagles tackle said he used the product for "pretty much the whole summer." He said he would add the amino acid powder to water and drink it all day.

But let's back up a step, a step that Johnson carelessly took.

Before ingesting the supplement, Johnson said he scanned the bar code on an Aegis Shield mobile app to identify whether the product contained any ingredients that are on the NFL's banned substance list. He said a green checkmark appeared - the icon given for a product not on the list.

The NFL Players Association has made the Aegis app available since 2012. Anyone with a smartphone can purchase a yearlong subscription for $2.99 "to see what is banned by several national programs," including "WADA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, Collegiate, WWE, INDYCAR," according to the Aegis Shield website.

Aside from questioning whether World Wrestling Entertainment bans anything, the app wouldn't appear to be the best way to monitor supplements. While the NFLPA doesn't approve of supplements, and reminds players that even "checked green" supplements may contain ingredients not listed, its partnership with Aegis is dubious.

"The NFLPA is here to stand up for players and I feel like what's the purpose of even having the app and giving it to the players if it does nothing," Johnson said Monday. "There's no purpose for it."

But Johnson, who faces a 10-game suspension after failing an initial test, needs to also look in the mirror. He is ultimately responsible for whatever he puts in his body. And after having already been disciplined for a first infraction two years ago, he needed to be extra cautious. He didn't have to go to the extreme of not taking supplements - as he said he would do from now on - but there are measures in place to protect him.

"I'll take blame, but everything I did, I tried to go by the book," Johnson said. "Everybody in the locker room uses this app and I feel like a lot of guys didn't know. . . . Even if something does come up tainted in the product that was approved, it doesn't matter."

Eagles offensive lineman Allen Barbre, who was suspended four years ago for taking a banned substance, said that he has used to Aegis app, but that he sticks "with products that I know are safe for me." Tight end Zach Ertz said he stopped using the app two years ago and that he only uses supplements provided by the Eagles.

"Most of these [supplement] companies have no money," Ertz said. "They're just trying to develop a great product that gives results whether the ingredients they list on it are fact or fiction. Now it's just gotten to the point where I'm like, 'Whatever the Eagles are supplying, those are the supplements I'm going to take.'

"And if I don't reach the quote-unquote peak of supplementation, I'm all right with that."

The Eagles use the standards established by National Science Foundation International, an independent, accredited organization that has tested food, water and consumer products since 1944. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the supplement industry.

"I don't take much because I'm kind of scared, to be honest," Eagles guard Stefen Wisniewski said.

Wisniewski said he has never used the Aegis app. He said he only takes a protein supplement that helps him maintain his weight. The 320-pound Johnson, despite weighing about 80 pounds lighter when he played quarterback in junior college, said he has had no problem keeping his weight.

"I can't imagine being a 330-pound lineman and having to keep on weight," Ertz said. "They're in a tough spot, honestly."

Johnson said that the use of amino acids, which aid the body in recovery, is common around the NFL. But some amino acids contain banned peptides - compounds that can help build muscle and burn fat. Johnson declined to name the brand he used because of legalities.

"You can go look at our training table there by the weight room," Johnson said. "You can in the locker room. Everybody has amino acids that they use."

On July 30, the first day the Eagles wore pads in training camp, Johnson said he found out he had failed the drug test he took in early June. The league office informed him by letter. An Eagles employee placed the envelope in his locker stall at the NovaCare Complex, but the results were confidential.

The initial result would have to be confirmed by a B-sample. But he said he told the front office, presumably owner Jeffrey Lurie and the team's executive vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman, as soon as he was informed.

"The only people I told were upstairs," Johnson said.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he found out the same time as reporters and fans - last Tuesday when the news broke. But it's more likely that Pederson knew and was simply protecting the player's rights, as collectively bargained by the NFLPA.

The Eagles had no comment on Monday.

Johnson said it could be a few weeks before he knows his fate, and if the result stands up, he plans to appeal.

"I'm not getting my hopes up," he said.

If suspended, Johnson will not be permitted on team grounds until late November. He was permitted to communicate with the Eagles via Skype two years ago. He said he hasn't looked that far ahead. The Eagles have dropped him to the second team in preparation, and he admitted that he's having a difficult time staying motivated.

"Yeah, I've been upset. Mentally, I'm out of it," Johnson said. "It's hard to go out there and practice knowing: What's it all going to be for? That's been the toughest thing."

It was easily avoidable.