The NovaCare Complex has a new energy buzzing inside this season. Well, maybe it’s an old energy that has new life. Starting right tackle Lane Johnson is back, finally healthy and firing on all cylinders.
Coming off season-ending surgery on his left ankle, coupled with a private battle with depression, Johnson didn’t always feel like himself in 2021. He missed three games last season, fighting through troublesome pain in his surgically repaired ankle at times. Johnson even contemplated retirement.
“I was at the point of I don’t know if I can play anymore because I couldn’t push off my left foot,” Johnson told reporters. “And you’ll see from the tape, really, from the beginning of last year, I couldn’t run block the way I’m used to playing. I could still get it done but not as effectively.
“This year, I feel a lot more comfortable. It’s not on my mind like it was last year where it took me midway through the season to kind of feel comfortable again playing. I’m in a great headspace now. I feel comfortable. Glad to be back, man.”
One big improvement is Johnson’s running. He couldn’t do it last year.
“Last training camp I didn’t do any running, I couldn’t run,” Johnson said. “I could hobble, I could get out of my stance, I could make do, but that [ankle injury] was on my mind constantly.”
Then there’s his presence in the building. Johnson’s smile lights up the room. His personality is contagious. Everyone is having fun again, especially in the offensive line room where Jason Kelce feels reinvigorated.
“He just makes being here more fun. He’s got a great personality. He’s got a great sense of humor,” Kelce said. “When he’s not here I miss being able to sit next to him in team meetings or O-line meetings. We’ve been through a lot, and he makes coming into this building a lot more fun for myself. It’s still Lane Johnson.”
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Johnson Adds 15-20 Pounds: Best Physical Shape
A healthy mind and healthy body have motivated Johnson. And given him perspective. He added 15-20 pounds to his already hulking 310-pound frame, while focusing more on increasing his flexibility over getting stronger.
“Physically I’m the biggest I’ve been, around 330, 325 [pounds],” Johnson told reporters. “But, really, as you get older, as much as you want to concentrate on power, I try to concentrate maybe more on flexibility. That was a lot going into my training camp this year, working on flexibility and mobility. Because as you get older some of that stuff diminishes if you don’t work on it.”
The NFL is also trying to protect players from head injuries by introducing Guardian Caps. They are mandatory for offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and tight ends at all practices through the second preseason game. Kelce had some fun with it on Friday; Johnson brought one up to his post-practice press conference.
“I think it’s goofy as shit, look at it,” Johnson said. “It don’t feel too awkward, it just looks stupid.”
Eagles Need to Get Off to Fast Start
Johnson has talked about turning the NFC Least back into the NFC East. The division has become a bit of a joke among fans and around league circles. Not anymore. The Eagles intend to set the tone early by coming out of the gates fast, something they have struggled with in recent years. They started 2-2 in 2019; 1-2-1 in 2020; 1-3 in 2021.
“I would like to get a good start to the season. I’m tired of starting 1-3, 2-6 every year,” Johnson said. “It seems like that’s been the gist of the team for like the past two years. We always have a slow start, so I’d like to have a very fast start to the season to keep that momentum rolling.”