5 Minutes with Roob: Lane Johnson, from digging graves to Eagles

5 Minutes with Roob: Lane Johnson, from digging graves to Eagles

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson:

Roob: In this segment, we like to talk about something about the player the audience might not know. Your first job in high school, tell us, was a little off of the wall?
Johnson: Yeah, my stepfather’s best friend was the mortician in town and I got a job digging graves. I would also mow around the funeral home. It is pretty weird getting into it, but it was an odd job.
Roob: It must have built up some upper-body strength for you?
Johnson: I mean, a lot of it you do with a tractor. Once you get down to the bottom, it is just rocks, so I had to get an anvil to chip it away.  
Roob: How far deep did you go? 
Johnson: If we were doing a vault, we would do about 6½ feet.
Roob: Did you ever get freaked out?
Johnson: I mean, there are some stories of other workers cutting close to another grave, but I don’t want to get into those details, too much information. 
Roob: Your hometown of Groveton, Texas, which had a population of like 12. Tell me about life growing up in a small eastern Texas town?
Johnson: That is exactly what it was. Every Friday night everybody was at the football game. It was a good place to get a peace of mind. I had a good school district notarized for good football in the past, so it was a good place to develop and grow.

Roob: Before you went to Oklahoma, you played JUCO for a year. What was that experience like and did it help you get prepared for what you saw Oklahoma?
Johnson: Kilgore College was mentally the toughest place that I have ever been. It is really hard because when you go there you aren’t guaranteed anything and if you get injured there goes your scholarship. It is a dog-eat-dog world.
Roob: A lot has been made about how you came out of college as a defensive lineman and a quarterback. Do you think that helped you in your ability to read defenses, your understanding of the game and grasping what defenses are doing?
Johnson: Like that old saying, knowledge is power. Being able to pick up on stuff later on in my career has been important. I have developed a lot more than I did early on and that all comes with experience. 
Roob: You guys got off to a great start in Washington. How important was it to get to 1-0? It feels like a very confident locker room right now.
Johnson: Yeah, it’s good. Washington is a difficult place to play. It is a place we haven’t won at in numerous seasons. We are erasing the game from our mind and focus our attention on to the next game because the season is a marathon. You can’t get too high on your horse.
Roob: Obviously, last year you had a lot on your mind. How much different is it to go out and play knowing that your days were numbered?
Johnson: I cherish every moment that I am on the field. I know a lot of people doubt my abilities. So I am going to go out and go after the best pass rushers week in and week out.
Roob: What was the 10-week suspension like? How did you get through that?
Johnson: It is so tough, it still lingers. I feel like it is my time to pay back the team and the community. I have taken a lot over the years and it is my time to give back, get established here and go play hard for my team. 
Roob: What did you learn from that experience?
Johnson: I am on thin ice. You need to have accountability and not blame others for your mistakes. It has made me a stronger person. 
Roob: How have the fans been with everything?
Johnson: Philly has been great. When I go on the road, I hear it. It has been a blessing in disguise. I am not glad it happened but it has made me a better person.
Roob: What is the key to going into Arrowhead Stadium, one of the loudest outdoor stadiums in the league? 
Johnson: We have to be crisp with our silent count. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot and we need to establish the run early. 
Roob: I have to ask you about Jason Peters since you have been a teammate of his for a couple of years. There will be a point where he is retired and in the Hall of Fame and you will be still playing. When all is said and done, and you look back at being around him and learning from him, how big has it been for you these first few years?
Johnson: I think Jason has helped develop me into the player that I am today. I had a slow start as a rookie and we would look back at mistakes I made to correct it. He is such a good person and is one of the few guys I love on this earth.

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett was with the Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl in 2013, and he was with the Seahawks the next three years when they were supposed to but never did again.

He knows how hard it is to win it twice. If the Seahawks, with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch and company, couldn’t do it, who can?

Bennett thinks his new team is on the right track.

“They’re not complacent,” he said. “You look at most organizations. They win, they think that’s it, that year. But this team is pushing and moving pieces and finding our weaknesses and making them better, and I think that’s how you prepare to win [again]. 

“I think they’ve done a great job of it and me being an addition is something that I think is a great move.”

The Eagles, who won Super Bowl LII six weeks ago, acquired the 32-year-old Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end in each of the last three years, and a seventh-round pick from the Seahawks last week in exchange for receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick.

Bennett was there in 2014, when the Seahawks went 12-4 and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket before losing, 28-24, to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

The Seahawks were one yard from winning. But that final sequence shows just how hard it is to repeat. The last NFL team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. The last NFC team was the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.

“When you come to the NFL, you want to hold that Lombardi,” Bennett said. “A lot of people can get Pro Bowls, a lot of people can get a lot of different things in the NFL when it comes to contracts, but not a lot of people can hold that Lombardi, and when you hold it, it’s something that’s very dear. 

“It’s like you’re holding your child and being able to caress it and hold it and it’s yours and it’s something that you really value, and I think for me, that’s what it’s really about. 

“To come into an organization and you look around and everybody wants that. First thing I talked to Howie (Roseman) about was, the first thing he said is, 'I want to go back,' and when you hear somebody say something like that, you feel it, and I felt it through the phone and I felt the vibe, so for me, that’s what it’s really about.”

Bennett was asked what he learned from Seattle’s failure to repeat its 2013 success and how that might help the Eagles find their way to a second consecutive championship.

“I kind of go with the Nelson Mandela approach: ‘You never really lose, you either win or you grow from situations,’" Bennett said.

“And I think we were just growing as a team. We were a young team, we were having so much success, I was on a team full of superstars every single day. There were never enough cameras, every commercial was somebody on my team. So it was just us growing and I think we all just wanted to continue to grow. 

“As you know, in this league, it’s hard to get back to those moments and be able to win those games. Things happen, people get traded, new players come in, things change. I don’t think it took a toll on us, we just move on season to season and try to be the best players we could possibly be.”

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

As Michael Bennett watched the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, he couldn’t help but think about how he would fit with the Birds’ defensive line.

And how he could make an already impressive unit even better.

“Then a month later, it happens,” Bennett said at his introductory press conference in Philly on Monday afternoon. “Things always happen for a reason. This is just another great opportunity.”

Bennett is 32 now, but is coming off his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He clearly thinks he has plenty left in the tank and the Eagles obviously agree. They traded with the Seahawks to get him and then released a more expensive Vinny Curry.

The Birds then brought in Haloti Ngata and let Beau Allen walk in free agency. So the Eagles’ defensive line now includes Bennett, Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The group includes five former first-round picks and has a combined 11 Pro Bowls between them.

On Monday afternoon, Bennett put the quarterbacks of the NFC East on notice (see story) and then didn’t mince words about how great this defensive line can be in 2018.

“I think it can be one of the greatest,” he said. “I think we can have one of the greatest defensive lines to ever play the game if we approach the game every single way. Just go out there and just keep doing what they’re doing and just finding a way to add and just keep showing how many great players.

“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation. It’s kind of like Golden State. You want to be able to have those guys who can come in and shoot and shoot and score every time.”

This isn’t the first time an Eagles defensive lineman has compared the unit to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it was Curry who said it last October after the Eagles tortured San Francisco's C.J. Beathard for an afternoon at the Linc (see story). Curry’s out and Bennett is in, but the rotation is still going strong.

Bennett played 934 defensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2017. That was the third most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. For comparison’s sake, Graham led the Eagles’ defensive linemen in snaps with 666 in the regular season; that ranked 43rd in the NFL among defensive linemen.

So maybe that means that the disruptive numbers Bennett put up in Seattle were because he played so much. Or, on the flip side, staying fresh might actually help increase his productivity and lead to more longevity. The Eagles are hoping for the latter.

“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man,” Bennett said. “But, like I said, I came here to be an All-Star, just like I’ve been, to continuously play at a Pro Bowl level and I don’t think that’s no different. Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.

“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February. To be able to keep guys fresh and to have those opportunities where you have guys to be able to keep rushing the quarterback as savage as we can. You gotta go out there and play savage every single play and I think less snaps can give me the opportunity to do that.”