Eagles’ Lane Johnson Shares Special Message: ‘Don’t Bottle It Up’

Lane Johnson

Getty Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson is speaking up about mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Lane Johnson spent the majority of his post-game press conference addressing mental health issues. He could have easily changed the conversation to the 265 rushing yards – the most for the Philadelphia Eagles in a road game since 2014 – that he and his offensive linemates accounted for. He didn’t.

Johnson wanted to use his celebrity status to talk about something “40-50 percent of people in the NFL” suffer from. Anxiety and depression kept him out of three games this season but the condition has been haunting him since his JUCO days at Kilgore College. He wasn’t diagnosed until he arrived at the University of Oklahoma. The three-time Pro Bowler has been ashamed of it for a long time. Not anymore.

“The real message is don’t bottle it up. It’s easy to do that,” Johnson told reporters. “It’s easy to avoid situations that you don’t want to go through, something that’s going to be difficult. Don’t let your pride get in the way. The bad news is I think a lot more people have it than what meets the eye. I think it’s easy to put on a poker face in life.”

Yes, his decision to walk away from football for a few weeks was rooted in depression but it was more complicated. Johnson had been experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms after he stopped taking SSRI medication, antidepressants that increase serotonin levels in the brain (via Mayo Clinic).

You are supposed to taper off the medication. He went cold turkey. And that approach resulted in nausea, vomiting, and a general flu-like malaise.

“Football wasn’t even a question at the time,” Johnson said. “It was something that I felt even before the season. I told a few close friends but kept it bottled up because I felt ashamed of it. I felt it was a crutch. Coming back the support I’ve had from the team, from my friends, from my family – I couldn’t ask for nothing better and getting out there and playing football again, you’re reminded how lucky you are to be in the position that you are and so taking it day by day.”

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Thank You, City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia often gets a bad reputation. Cue up the footage of Santa Claus getting pelted by snow balls. And Michael Irvin in a body bag. It’s a silly national narrative that Jason Kelce poked holes through in a recent interview. Well, Johnson got to experience the softer side of Philly fans throughout his recovery. The outpouring of support on social media was incredible and didn’t go unnoticed.

“When I got back [to Philly] I got the help that I needed, and moving forward, just playing [football],” Johnson said when asked about coping mechanisms. “I enjoy playing football and I enjoy the people I’m around. And I’m going to enjoy the community that I’m around. One thing about this city – you know Kelce said it’s easy to play here, just be raw, just be real.

“And so that’s what I dealt with, it was terrible. I don’t wish it on nobody but moving forward I don’t want sympathy. I got help. I got tons of friends and I just want to focus on being the best right tackle that I can be.”

Johnson also went out of his way to praise the Eagles’ organization for supporting him. He mentioned head coach Nick Sirianni by name, as well as Dom DiSandro who serves as head of security. Right guard Brandon Brooks was also a huge source of help since he suffers from a similar disorder.

Statement Win? Not So Fast

Johnson did touch on the Eagles’ 44-6 win over Detroit. It was the first time the franchise had scored at least 40 points in a game since 2017. And the most points scored in a road game since 2013.

Their 38-point margin of victory was the highest since a 43-point victory over Chicago in 2013. Still, no one wanted to talk about statement wins or anything like that. It’s a step in the right direction. That’s it.

“I don’t know about statement game, it was a good game,” Johnson said. “I think the stretch we have coming up we got to really just attack it like we did this week. I think we had an excellent run game today and, as an offensive lineman, that’s a lot of fun. Getting to do that, getting to fly off the ball.”

But Johnson wouldn’t take the bait when asked if he thought the Eagles should have committed to the ground attack earlier in the year.

“You start off how you want to in Atlanta and then you get kind of stale,” Johnson said. “You go look at the situations. You get down in those games, you’re going to throw the ball. Much like today. Detroit, you get behind 14 or whatever, you get in those situations it is what it is. It becomes a passing game, the game changes.”

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