Marcus Johnson already had a lot on his plate this week, trying to nail down a roster spot in a crowded Eagles wide-receiving corps.
Then Hurricane Harvey happened.
Johnson grew up in League City, Texas, 28 miles southeast of Houston, and has many friends and relatives scattered around the greater Houston area.
"My immediate family's pretty well – my mom, dad, brother and sister," Johnson said Monday. "I do have some family that their houses are flooded, my godmother, both of her homes flooded, and then I have other family in Dickinson [about 5 miles south of League City] that have flooding in their homes. It's a tough situation, and not just [for] them. Houston and all the neighboring cities, it's tough right now."
Dickinson featured prominently in CNN's coverage of the flooding over the weekend, as a reporter rode around a subdivision in a boat that sometimes passed over top of submerged cars.
Johnson, a member of the Eagles' practice squad last season, said he will donate to relief funds.
"Scrolling through my timeline, you see all this flooding, all these things going on. It's definitely a tough situation, to sit back and not be able to do much, but I'm strong in my faith, I'm going to continue to pray for them, and when I get the opportunity to go back, whenever that may be, I definitely want to help people rebuild homes, whatever I can do to just give back to the community," he said.
Johnson worked out in Houston in the offseason. He said the facility he used had flooding problems any time it rained, so he assumes it is inundated now.
"It's insane. It really is. A lot of close people who've helped me get my game to where it is right now and do the things that I'm doing, they're struggling," Johnson said. "Training facilities, homes, really, people that are close to me."
There is a graffiti sign that reads "Be Someone," written on a bridge over I-45. It's a Houston landmark.
"The great symbol of Houston is the 'Be Someone' sign, and to see water right below that … I drive back and forth [past the sign] every day, Monday through Sunday, working out. To see that underwater is crazy," Johnson said.
"We've had issues with flooding the past few years, but this is obviously record-breaking, and I truly didn't expect this with the hurricane … It's tough being away, not being able to help … to see hearts crushed, to see those people really going through it."
Johnson is one of at least five Eagles with close ties to the Houston area, the only one who appeared during the team's locker-room media availability.
Earlier Monday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich talked about how difficult decisions on the last few roster positions will be at wideout. Going into Thursday's preseason finale at the Jets, it would seem that Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are the starters, with Nelson Agholor in the slot and fourth-round rookie Mack Hollins in a solid position, both as a receiver and a special-teams guy. Johnson might have the edge as the fifth wideout, competing primarily against Bryce Treggs and fifth-round rookie Shelton Gibson.
Former Houston QB Greg Ward seems to be a decent bet for the practice squad, though Treggs and Gibson would also have practice-squad eligibility, if they were to be cut and clear waivers. Last year's preseason hero, Paul Turner, hasn't made much of a splash this year in a much deeper pool.
The Eagles are likely to keep either five or six wide receivers. Keeping seven would be unusual but not unprecedented.
"This is, without a doubt, the best group that I've been around for a while," Reich said. "From top to bottom, just very competitive. They've all flashed, they all deserve to be here. For a couple of guys who might not be here, I think they're going to end up someplace else, that's how confident we feel in this group. All in all, we're just very happy with the progress they've made and the chemistry in that room and the production they've had in practice and in games."
NFL teams must go from 90 players to the regular-season limit of 53 by 4 p.m. Sunday. This is the first year in which there is just one roster cutdown.
"It's tight, it's very tight," Reich said. "When it comes down to those last roster spots, [Pederson] always emphasizes that it's not only what they do as a receiver, it's what they do on special teams and how you can contribute – position versatility, special teams, all those things factor in the roster … it's very complicated, lots of moving parts."
Reich said the coaches want to be sure to give everyone a fair shake before deciding, including the evaluation of Thursday's game.
"You set the table, but you don't really start digging in until you have to," he said. "You gotta have the patience to wait it out, and see how everything plays out."
Johnson seems to have earned a place at that table, but could a stellar week of practice and a strong game against the Jets by, say, Gibson, who still has the stellar speed that got him drafted, change that perception?
"I can only keep my mind on what's at hand," Johnson said, asked about trying to focus on the roster fight. "You kind know when to flip the switch. When I come here and I come to work, that's what I'm focused on, that's what I have control of right now … When I'm away I call my parents, I've talked to plenty of friends, and I'm going to continue to reach out to them … All I can do [to help] is pray, right now."
Johnson, 6-1, 204, signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie last year out of Texas. He suffered a quad injury early in his first training camp and never got back on the field before cutdowns, but the Eagles had seen enough in spring work to put him on the practice squad. He has been very good this year, and has missed only the first preseason game, with a hamstring tweak.