Brandon Brooks, Part II: Opening up on teammates' reaction to anxiety attack

Brandon Brooks, Part II: Opening up on teammates' reaction to anxiety attack

In Part 1 of our Q&A with Brandon Brooks, the Eagles’ All-Pro guard talked about the circumstances that forced him out of the Eagles' game against the Seahawks Sunday after just 12 snaps (see story).

In Part 2, Brooks talked about why he’s been so public about his battle with anxiety, how prevalent mental health issues are with pro athletes and how supportive his teammates and coaches have been.

How have your teammates been throughout this?

Brandon Brooks: “You hear us talking about being a brotherhood and having each others’ backs, but actions always speak louder than words. Whether it’s me or somebody else, whenever something serious like this happens, teammates rally around each other, and they’ve rallied around me since I’ve been here on Day 1. That’s why it hurts so much to not be out there when something like this happens.”

Why have you been so public with your battles with anxiety?

“I think the biggest thing I always try to say first: I don’t do this to have people feel sorry for me or anything like that. The reason I try to share what I go through and my story is for people out there who are scared to get help, who feel embarrassed or ashamed to go through any type of mental illness. Hopefully people who are going through that type of stuff hopefully saw the amazing outreach and outpouring from people across the globe really about my situation.

"So just letting them know it can be OK. Some things can be prevented if you get help at some of the earlier signs. I never really thought it would be such a big impact, but I just kind of wanted to tell the truth and share my story for the one or two people that it could help. That’s all I ever really wanted to do.”

Have you heard from players on other teams? Other guys who might be experiencing something similar?

Brandon Brooks: “There’ve been a lot of guys around the league who reached out to me about it. It’s a lot more guys than you guys can imagine, to be honest. It’s a lot of guys that go through it for a lot of different aspects, not just the one that affects me but for a lot of different reasons.”

Why do you think so many athletes are hesitant or reluctant to share their experiences?

Brandon Brooks: “We’re supposed to be modern-day gladiators. We’re getting paid more than the rest of the public and we’re playing what some people call just a game. We’re not suppsoed to have any emotions and just do what we’re told, but at the end of the day we’re people. We’re human beings. We go through the same things that everybody else goes through. The 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 that go through the same issues that we go through, and I just encourage other athletes who do go through things, whether it’s something like mental illness or really anything, speak about it. You never know who you might help, including helping yourself. Who knows? Maybe if I had started earlier in my life or in my career, maybe this wouldn’t be the bar that how it starts for me. Seek help, man. Speak out. Use your platform for good.”

What’s your message to other people who are dealing with similar issues?

Brandon Brooks: “When it comes to mental health issues, the biggest thing is to embrace it and accept it and understand why and really to attack it. It’s no different than pulling a hamstring. You’ve got to go into the training room and ice and stim and do all these different exercises. It’s the same thing mentally. You want to make sure people understand that it’s something that one, you can attack an it can get better and two, by hoping that it gets better, that’s not necessarily the best strategy. It’s OK to seek help, it’s OK to get help.”

What’s the best way for the Eagles or any sports team to handle mental health issues?

Brandon Brooks: “The biggest thing is really having an open environment, an open forum, allowing guys to come forward hopefully sooner than later, at their own pace, and seek the help that they need. And just keep an environment where everybody’s door is open and guys aren’t afraid or shouldn’t be afraid to talk about really anything with anybody in the building, and that’s the type of environment we have here.

"So for me, when Doug (Pederson) comes out and supports me, I had a conversation with Howie (Roseman) and Doug and Stout (O-line coach Jeff Stoutland) about the plan going forward and how I’m going to attack it, and what the reason was, so if you have an environment like that, [it really helps].”

And the Eagles have handled this better than you think most teams would?

Brandon Brooks: “100 percent. I don’t know how many teams would be as open in this situation like this and help the player attack it like they do here.”

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Eagles reportedly have a new secondary coach

Eagles reportedly have a new secondary coach

Marquand Manuel is the Eagles’ new secondary coach, according to a tweet by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

The 40-year-old Manuel replaces Cory Undlin, who had served in that role since 2015, first under Chip Kelly and the last four years under Doug Pederson. Undlin was named Lions defensive coordinator two weeks ago.

Manuel and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz go back a ways. Manuel played for the Lions in 2009 when Schwartz was their head coach.

Manuel was not in the NFL this past year. He spent the previous four years under Dan Quinn with the Falcons, two years as secondary coach and two years as defensive coordinator before getting fired following the 2018 season.

The Falcons reached the Super Bowl in his second year in Atlanta, losing to the Patriots in Houston.

Before Atlanta, Manuel spent three years working under Quinn with the Seahawks, holding a variety of titles on the defensive staff.

Manuel, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, was the Bengals’ 6th-round pick in 2002 and spent eight years as a safety in the NFL with six different teams — the Bengals, Seahawks, Packers, Panthers, Broncos and Lions.

He played in 116 games, starting 58, with two interceptions and a pick-6 while he was with the Packers in 2006 off Jon Kitna of the Lions.

The Eagles also reportedly interviewed Browns defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker for the position.

The Eagles already have a safeties coach on the staff, former Eagle Tim Hauck. He was Pederson's teammate with the Eagles in 1999 and has been on Pederson's staff since 2016.

Quinn had this to say about Manuel on the Falcons’ web site back in 2018:

From the time I've met him from now, one thing that's cool to see that has stayed consistent is the energy and enthusiasm he has for players. He made the transition from player to coach really seamlessly because he knew the boundaries of coach, but he also stepped across to say, I can push you. That's not easy to do. He's always had mental quickness of a quarterback or someone who gets concepts really quickly. That transferred into this coaching fast. He can communicate concepts and ideas quickly to people on the run, in the moment, that's a really valuable asset as a coach.

The Eagles still have openings to replace the three assistant coaches Doug Pederson fired: offensive coordinator Mike Groh, wide receivers coach Carson Walch and defensive line coach Phillip Daniels.

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Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Just a few days ago, it seemed like the Eagles weren’t going to lose Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry because it looked like the Browns were going to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else has dropped out of the race.

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has taken himself out of the running to be the Browns’ next general manager, which means Berry is now the new favorite, according to Cleveland.com

This is certainly an interesting turn of events.

According to Cleveland.com, “Paton was reluctant to accept the initial interview because he assumed the job would go Berry.”

Now it might.

It would have made plenty of sense for the Browns to hire Paton, who has a long-standing relationship with new head coach Kevin Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. But according to reports over the past few weeks, it seems like Berry has been a favorite of ownership and the front office.

While Berry and Stefanski have never worked together, they did get to know each other during the coaching search in Cleveland a year ago. After that search, the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens and Berry left for Philly. But now, Berry and Stefanski might actually get a chance to work with one another.

The Harvard-educated Berry, 32, was with the Browns from 2016-18 as their Vice President of Player Personnel before he joined the Eagles last season in a role they created for him. Berry initially came up in the Colts franchise, first as a scouting assistant and finally as a pro scouting coordinator. He’s been a quick-riser in the NFL world.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles reportedly denied a request from the Panthers to interview Berry for a Vice President job. The reasoning from the Eagles was that it wasn’t a general manager position and he wouldn’t have had final say on personnel matters.

Final say is something Berry will likely never have here in Philadelphia. Despite a few missteps in recent years, Howie Roseman has pretty solid job security and he isn’t going anywhere. If Berry is going to become a GM, it’s going to be in another city. And it seems like that day might be coming soon.

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