PHILADELPHIA – Fletcher Cox put it best when asked about the return of Lane Johnson to practice on Wednesday.
“We all have real-life problems,” said the Eagles defensive tackle about the team’s Pro Bowl right offensive tackle. “We’re all human. I think sometimes people don’t realize. They think that we’re bulletproof. That’s the funny part about it, but we all have his back and look forward to seeing No. 65 on Sunday.”
It seems to be trending in that direction for Johnson, though head coach Nick Sirianni said prior to Wednesday’s practice that Johnson would be limited.
It has nothing to do with the ankle that saw Johnson pop up on the injury report prior to his battle with mental health issues that cost him the previous three games.
“We're taking that day by day,” said the coach. “Just really excited that he's back in the building, back with his teammates, and just super excited to see his face every day.”
Johnson, who turns to a 2-2 team preparing to play a 4-2 Raiders team in Las Vegas on Sunday, is simply being eased back into things due to the three-week layoff.
He was a late scratch against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 3 and was away from the facility for an unspecified amount of time.
Johnson did not speak Wednesday and isn’t scheduled to talk this week as of now, though his teammates did.
"It’s bloody great to have Lane back," said OT Jordan Mailata. "He just brings this morale booster. It’s needed, especially how we’re going right now. I think just having Lane back, just having our brother back, man, means a lot to us, especially as an O-line but from a whole team perspective. Definitely that morale booster. Everybody missing him, glad we have him back, and he’s doing well."
Mailata said that he is practicing playing both sides of the line this week, both left and right tackle.
"I’m just preparing to do whatever it takes for the team," he said. "Preparing both sides, so whatever happens on game day happens, but we’re making sure we cover all bases."
Sirianni said that Johnson's situation hopefully opens eyes for others who may potentially need mental health services.
“I think we're always aware of definitely mental health and issues like that just with the doctors that we have, with the trainers we have, with the people in the building here associated with mental health, too,’ said the coach. “Because we know that's an issue in our society right now, and we want to make sure we have the resources needed for our players for everything, not just on the field, but off the field as well.”
Johnson was getting reps at practice on Wednesday, and it would appear he is on track to play based on how things went, though it was difficult to tell what his conditioning level was like on a day where the temperature soared to 75 degrees under sunny skies in South Philadelphia.
“We deal with it, people go through it and I think we have to know that,” said quarterback Jalen Hurts about Johnson’s situation. “We have to know that and we have to evaluate and respect that. I have so much respect for Lane. Knowing that Everybody deals with something, I’m happy to see him back and OK.
“As a leader on the team, how do you handle when someone goes through a situation like that? You be supportive. Be supportive and give respect where it’s deserved. For a guy like Lane, everybody goes through something. So, me being a friend of his, I just want to be there for him and I’m happy that he’s OK and he’s back.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.