Minutes after a report broke about a re-shuffling of the Eagles offensive line, another musical chair had to be replaced. Lane Johnson announced that his season is officially over thanks to a nagging ankle injury hindering him since training camp. He was in and out of the lineup all year, unable to practice in full during the week or finish games on Sundays. Now he’s out for the year.
“It’s been difficult trying to play at a high level,” Johnson told reporters on Friday. “It’s something I knew that I would struggle with throughout the year. It’s something continually that hasn’t improved much and so the outlook of my season is done. My goal is to get healthy. You get paid a lot of money to stay on the field and play, so moving forward that’s all that’s on my mind.”
The complicated injury hasn’t improved much, according to Johnson, who underwent tightrope surgery in August as he tried to play through the pain. He missed three games, including the season opener. Matt Pryor is his presumptive replacement at right tackle, marking the 11th different starting offensive line. The entire right side has been switched after Jason Peters rotated over to right guard.
“As far as a guy that can move inside and do multiple things, he can do it,” Johnson said of Pryor. “I think with Pryor there, those are two big people as far as covering the ground and being able to move efficiently, I think they’ll be working good together.”
Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler, will have surgery to repair a deltoid ligament in his left ankle and anticipates a four- to five-month recovery time. He should have a better update on his return in June or July.
“You get paid a contract to play like one of the best tackles in the league, and then you go out there and you can’t finish games and you’re not out there,” Johnson said. “As far as being a setback, that’s what it is. It is what it is. People deal with injuries it’s just a matter of recovering from this and then coming back fully healthy to play a season and don’t worry about it, getting back to functioning normally.”
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Injury Saga Dates Back Two Whole Years
Johnson’s initial injury happened two years ago when he hurt it in London against Jacksonville, then he re-aggravated it last year in Week 17 versus New York. The 30-year-old revealed a stress fracture had formed following the tightrope surgery — a surgeon ties two bones (tibia, fibula) together — and limited his normal “power and push-off.”
Johnson said he had been making good progress until it got “rolled up on” a few times this season, most notably in Week 7 when he suffered an MCL sprain. He didn’t opt for additional surgery immediately because he really wanted to be out there with his teammates. Until the pain made it impossible.
“It’s like the inside of my ankle is collapsed,” Johnson said. “It’s been damaged for some time and I tried to play through it as much as I could. I knew this was going to be a difficult process trying to play, but like I said we were making really good progress at times.”
His surgery hasn’t yet been scheduled but Johnson is already looking forward to 2021. He wants to come back 100% healthy which won’t be an easy chore for his injury-riddled body. However, the All-Pro right tackle will draw on inspiration from teammate Brandon Brooks who came back from a lot worse in 2019.
“My goal is to put this behind me to where it’s something I don’t have to think about,” Johnson said. “You’ve seen guys come back from far worse. You’ve seen Brooks tear an Achilles. He was the best guard in the league last year so if I need inspiration or guidance, I can look to the people around here in the past who have recovered.”
Eagles Activate Corey Clement, Vinny Curry
Meanwhile, the Eagles activated defensive end Vinny Curry and running back Corey Clement from the Reserve-COVID-19 list on Friday. The two players had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. Curry and Clement reportedly tested negative themselves.
Doug Pederson talked earlier in the week about the challenges in dealing with guys being out of the building due to COVID-19 related concerns and NFL safety protocols. He hasn’t seen anything affect the locker room in a negative manner.
“I’ve been very pleased with even the struggles that we’re having,” the head coach said. “I’ve been very pleased with the energy, with the enthusiasm, the attention to detail that a lot of these players and this team has had and that is something we got to hold on to and work our way out of this.”
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