WHEN Brandon Brooks developed sudden, mysterious illnesses that kept him from playing two of the last three games, it was easy to wonder if the Eagles' veteran right guard cared enough, as his team's season went down the tubes.
Brooks said Wednesday the problem is that he cares too much.
"I found out recently that I have an anxiety condition," Brooks said after Wednesday's practice. "What I mean by anxiety condition, not nervousness or fear of the game, what it is, is . . . I have, like, an obsession with the game. It's an unhealthy obsession right now. I'm working with team doctors and things to get everything straightened out."
Brooks said he wants to be perfect, obsesses over his performance, and sometimes can't calm down.
"I have to learn to chill out and understand it's OK to make a mistake, it's OK not to be perfect," Brooks said. "Turn my brain off."
He said that he is far from reluctant to play - he remains enthusiastic about the game and about the Eagles. Head coach Doug Pederson has said Brooks will start this week at Baltimore. Brooks said he is confident the problem won't keep that from happening.
"I love the organization; the organization's been great. They've supported me with this. The head coach, my position coach, Howie (Roseman, the de facto general manager) - everybody's supported me," Brooks said. "I'll make it through. I'll be OK. Nothin' I'm ashamed of. I own it."
Rookie Isaac Seumalo, who became a last-minute starter at right guard both times when Brooks couldn't go, said: "Only Brandon knows what he's dealing with. He kind of talked to the o-line (about the diagnosis). He has our full support. Trust me, if Brandon could play, he'd play. There's no doubt about that."
Brooks said he has been taking medication since the problem caused him to miss the Nov. 28 Green Bay game. He said he hadn't been taking the medication long enough for it to affect the attack of vomiting that kept him out of Sunday's loss to Washington, the fourth loss in a row for the Eagles.
Again, Brooks said, he woke up at "4 or 5 in the morning" needing to vomit, over and over. Before the Green Bay game, he went to a hospital. This time he reported to Lincoln Financial Field, planning to play, said he took IVs, but "I couldn't even stand up. I was too weak to stand up."
"There's nothing doctors can give me, once it starts, to stop it," he said. "It goes for a full 24 hours."
The problem isn't a new one, Brooks said, it has affected him before practices as well as games, but it caused him to miss only two games in his four years with the Houston Texans, and was something he thought he could deal with on his own. He said he had "a couple of endoscopies" in Houston, and an ulcer was believed to be the source of his troubles.
"I thought it was something physical in my stomach . . . I would get sick once, maybe twice a year. It wasn't like it was this time," with him missing two of three games.
Brooks, who is 27, said that after missing the Green Bay game, "I went out to seek help. I realized that, obviously, I couldn't defeat it myself. I'm not ashamed to reach out for help . . . I'm not ashamed, I'm not embarrassed. It's life. Hopefully, I'll reach someone else out there . . . let 'em know it's OK, fight through it, just like I'm trying to do."
Brooks' flareups have added an additional layer of chaos onto a turbulent Eagles offensive-line situation. This weekend, right tackle Lane Johnson will serve the final segment of his 10-game NFL suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. His replacement, rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai, suffered an MCL sprain Nov. 20 at Seattle and is probably still a week away from practicing. Left guard Allen Barbre moved to right tackle and was replaced at guard by Stefen Wisniewski.
Then last Sunday, Barbre suffered a hamstring injury against Washington, with Brooks too ill to play and Seumalo acting as his emergency replacement. Matt Tobin finished the game for Barbre, but he suffered an MCL sprain on the next-to-last Eagles snap, leading to a sack and a Carson Wentz fumble on the final snap. Tobin said he stayed in at least partly because he figured he was the last tackle standing.
This week, Seumalo is practicing at right tackle, where he played briefly at Oregon State. The Eagles are hoping Barbre can play in Baltimore.
Seumalo was asked if it felt good that the coaches had confidence enough in him to ask him to play tackle, if Barbre can't go. He smiled. "Especially when - no, it does," he said. The questioner acknowledged he was tiptoeing around the fact that the coaches were pretty much out of other options.
Seumalo said he felt his second emergency right guard start went much better than the first. He said he thinks Barbre will tell him by the end of the week if Seumalo is going to start at right tackle this week.
He said he thinks the NFL is about "making things as hard as possible, putting you in high-stress situations." He figures in the long run, this will help his development.
Pederson was asked Wednesday about the biggest thing he has learned from having to play so long without Johnson.
"I think the biggest thing - the glaring thing - is that we're on our fifth right tackle. With Lane, we weren't going through this," Pederson said. "So you're asking guys to kind of play out of position . . . We're just looking forward to next week and getting him back."
Pederson spoke to reporters before Brooks spoke; Pederson danced around Brooks questions, saying they had conferred, that it was "a weird thing," but that the medical staff was "still kind of diving into the bottom of it." Pederson clearly was waiting for the player to deliver the news.
"I have full confidence in him, that he'll be ready," Pederson said.