Brandon Brooks: "It's a Daily Battle"
The contract extension Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks signed two weeks ago got inside his head and began seeping into his everyday thought process, and then he began to question whether or not he would be able to live up to the $54.2 million the new deal will pay him through 2024.
Eventually, Brooks got to the point where he put so much pressure on himself that he woke up Sunday morning prior to the Eagles’ game against the Seattle Seahawks and couldn’t stop vomiting.
The contract was the trigger point to the return of Brooks’ well-chronicled battle with anxiety.
He was unable to stop throwing up, doing so on the sideline between the Eagles’ first two drives. Eventually, he could no longer continue and he was removed from the game.
“When I got the new contract, I tried to talk myself down about it, hey, you’re playing great, just keep doing what you’re doing, no issue,” said Brooks on Tuesday.
“But I talked to my therapist about it, and I think also by talking about it consciously, it started to set in my head, like, hey, you know you have to show everybody your worth the money and x, y and z, when, hey, just go out there and play. No need to change what you’ve been doing.”
Brooks stood at his locker surrounded by probably about 30 media members, a handful of television cameras, and patiently answered questions.
The first thing he expressed regret about was the feeling he had let down his teammates. He and right tackle Lane Johnson, who did not play and was home on game day recovering from a concussion suffered a week earlier, Face-Timed the morning of the game.
Brooks said he was good either way with whoever lined up at right tackle, which on Sunday was rookie Andre Dillard, and that Johnson’s absence wasn’t as much of a trigger point for the anxiety’s return.
“The biggest thing I feel terrible about is when my team needed me I wasn’t there,” said Brooks, who added that his teammates and coaches have been very supportive. “I had a handle on it for two-and-a-half years now.
"I guess the silver lining is I’m definitely on the right track, but moving forward I have a plan in place to ensure a situation like this doesn’t happen the remainder of the season.”
Brooks’ last bout with anxiety occurred in 2016 when he missed two games after the Eagles had signed him in the offseason as a free agent from the Houston Texans. He said then the reason for the anxiety was his unhealthy obsession with the game of football.
“It’s something that’s always driven me and sometimes driven me a little too much,” said Brooks. “It’s kind of like my double-edged sword, it’s something that always driven me to try to be greatest, the greatest at whatever I do.”
That sort of drive is what allowed Brooks to rehab a torn Achilles so intensely that he returned to the field less than eight months after he tore it in a playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints last January.
Brooks has always shared his constant battle with anxiety, even when it had been three years since it had completely debilitated him like it did on Sunday. He said that many players in the league who know of his anxiety issue reached out to him, some who have mental health issues of their own. He encouraged them to speak out.
“I don’t do this to have people feel sorry for me or anything like that,” said Brooks. “The reason I try to share what I go through and my story is for people out there who are scared to get help or feel embarrassed and ashamed who go through any type of mental illness.”
Asked why more athletes didn’t speak out, Brooks said: “Because we’re supposed to be modern-day gladiators. We’re getting paid more than the rest of the public. We’re playing what some people call just a game, we’re not supposed to have any emotions, we’re supposed to just play and do what we’re told.
“We’re people, we’re human beings. We go through the same things that everybody else goes through, everyday issues that 40 million Americans go through. We’re no different. When we have issues, the only difference is it’s front page news. But there are a lot of people who go through the same issues we all go through.”
Brooks said his plan to prevent this from happening again this season and beyond is to continue to talk with his therapist at last once a week and, on the night before a game, take medication so he wakes up more even-keeled, rather than vomiting nonstop.
“It’s a daily battle,” said Brooks. “I’ve gotten a lot better with it, obviously not having an episode in a couple years, but stuff happens. I continue to fight day-by-day. It’ll get better.”