Earlier this week, reporters were talking to Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland about his injured right tackle, Lane Johnson, who suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against Jacksonville on Oct. 28.
When one of the reporters suggested Johnson probably wouldn't be able to play in Sunday night's important NFC East contest against the Cowboys, Stoutland cut him off.
"You're not counting Lane out, are you?'' Stoutland asked. "He's a tough guy. Knowing Lane Johnson, anything he can do to be on that field, he'll be there. I'm not a doctor or anything like that. But I know how he operates.''
Grade 2 MCL sprains typically are 2-to-4-week injuries. But there was Johnson on Wednesday, with a brace on his left knee, participating in individual drills in practice.
Johnson wasn't in the Eagles' locker room during the media availability Wednesday, but he did tell one Inquirer and Daily News reporter later that there was a "good chance'' he'll play Sunday.
Earlier in the day, coach Doug Pederson said he was expecting Johnson to be available this week.
"He'll practice," he said. "He might be a little limited. But he's going to go, and we'll see where he's at day by day."
If Johnson can't go, Halapoulivaati Vaitai would replace him at right tackle.
Vaitai, who took the first-team reps at right tackle Wednesday, started 10 games at left tackle last season — including the Eagles' three playoff wins — after Jason Peters tore an ACL.
"I think he's going to go,'' Peters said confidently Wednesday. "He was doing individual [drills] today. He's a little gimpy, but not much.
"You can't tell the guy's even hurt. I think he's going. He's a tough guy. We need him. He's an All-Pro guy. Hopefully, he'll play and we'll get that W."
In the Eagles' 37-9 Week 11 win over the Cowboys last year, Johnson did an outstanding job on Dallas' Pro Bowl left end, DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence, who finished second in the league in quarterback sacks last season with 14 ½ and has a team-high 6 ½ this year, was shut out by Johnson in that game. He finished with no sacks and just one pressure.
Lawrence was one of several elite edge rushers whom Johnson effectively neutralized last season on his way to an All-Pro nod.
"He just likes to play the game," Stoutland said. "He played against a lot of really good players last year. And rose to the occasion each time."
Johnson hasn't played quite as well this season. He gave up costly sacks in back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Minnesota in Weeks 4 and 5.
He's played the last three games with an ankle injury, then injured the knee on the Eagles' first possession against Jacksonville.
"He went into the last game banged up, and I don't know if you watched the first seven to eight plays before he got hurt, but he didn't look hurt to me,'' Stoutland said. "He was flying around. He was playing extremely well.
"It's that time of year right now. There are a lot of players banged up.''
Peters happens to be one of them. He acknowledged that he still hasn't completely recovered from last year's ACL and MCL tears.
Toss in a torn biceps suffered in Week 6 against the Giants and a still-cranky quadriceps muscle that he injured earlier in the season, and it's a miracle the 36-year-old nine-time Pro Bowler is able to get out of bed in the morning, let alone protect Carson Wentz's blind side.
"I'm playing with an MCL and ACL right now,'' he said. "I understand what Lane's going through. I've gone through it. Went through it the first eight games.
"It takes time. His lateral movement is going to be kind of shaky to start off. But once he gets lathered up, he'll be able to roll."
Peters said his torn biceps is feeling better than it did before the bye week. "Everything else feels way better,'' he said. "We gotta make a run.
"We're 4-4. We could easily be 7-1. Even 8-0, but for a couple of plays here and there. But we can't take anything back. We've got to look forward. We've got the Dallas Cowboys Sunday and we're going to lay it all on the line."
Said Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks: "One of the things about injuries is, if you can fight through it and not make it any worse, you do it."
Especially when it's a critical division game and one of the league's best pass rushers is going to be lining up right across from you.
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