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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The top 10 most spectacular plays of Carson Wentz’s career

The top 10 most spectacular plays of Carson Wentz’s career

Carson Wentz makes “wow” plays. 

Sure, he’s struggled to stay on the field and, yeah, he needs to be more consistent before we name him as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But there’s no questioning the flashes of pure brilliance we’ve seen from him. 

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Wentz has made so many of those “wow” plays. The Eagles’ 27-year-old franchise quarterback has a rare blend of size, athleticism and strength that allows him to pull off spectacular moments. 

Here’s how I’d rank the top 10 spectacular plays of his career so far: 

10. The Magician 

Date: Oct. 23, 2017
Opponent: vs. Washington 

During what should have been Wentz’s MVP season, this was the play where I realized we might be watching something special. It was as impressive from the press box that day as it was on the TV broadcast. 

At the time of this play, the Eagles had a touchdown lead over the Redskins in the 4th quarter and they were facing a 3rd-and-8. Washington brought a blitz and it looked like they were going to sack Wentz for a big loss and force a punt with a chance to get back in the game. Nope. Somehow, he escaped and led the Eagles on a touchdown drive to put the game out of reach. 

9. You missed me

Date: Dec. 22, 2016
Opponent: vs. Giants 

In his rookie season, Wentz was actually out of this game with an injury for a few plays on the previous series and Chase Daniel came in the game. But on his third play back in the game, Wentz somehow changed direction, avoided a sack and sprinted for a first down. Eventually, the Eagles added a field goal on this drive to extend their lead in the eventual win. 

8. Coaches throw up their hands

Date: Dec. 29, 2019 
Opponent: at Giants 

This play happened in the regular season finale of the 2019 season. The Eagles needed a win against the Giants and the score was tied 3-3 late in the 2nd quarter when Wentz made a play that no coach in their right mind would ever advise. Wentz rolled right and threw all the way across the field to hit Josh Perkins in stride for a touchdown. Incredible arm strength and confidence to even attempt this throw. 

7. Find the new guy 

Date: Dec. 3, 2018 
Opponent: vs. Washington 

In Golden Tate’s fourth outing with the Eagles, he had his best game in an Eagles uniform. This play was the first score in a game the Eagles eventually won 28-13. Sure, Wentz’s arm on this play was strong enough to get the ball to Tate through the outstretched arms of a defender, but Wentz’s field awareness on this play is what made it special. 

Wentz was able to navigate the pocket, stepping up, setting up a block from Lane Johnson and then had the awareness to not cross the line of scrimmage before delivering the touchdown throw. 

6. Stand in and deliver

Date: Oct. 23, 2017
Opponent: vs. Washington 

This is the second time the Monday Night Football game against the Redskins shows up on this list. But I couldn’t leave this one out. The Eagles were up a touchdown in the 3rd quarter when Wentz ducked pressure and, while getting hit, threw a perfect touch pass to Corey Clement in the end zone. 

5. No, no, no, YES!!

Date: Oct. 11, 2018 
Opponent: vs. Giants 

This one sort of looks like the play Wentz made against the Giants in the 2019 regular season finale but this one had an even higher degree of difficulty. Unlike No. 8 on this list, this play wasn’t a designed rollout. It happened when the play broke down and Wentz escaped the pocket. His entire momentum was going toward the right boundary when he threw across his body, through traffic to Alshon Jeffery in the end zone for a touchdown. 

4. On a rope 

Date: Oct. 28, 2018
Opponent: at Jaguars 

This play happened in Wembley Stadium, so another country got a chance to see one of these in person. The score was still scoreless in the 1st quarter when Wentz stepped up in the pocket and it looked like he’s going to take off running. But before he can, and while being taken down, he threw and absolute rocket through several Jaguars defenders to a streaking Jordan Matthews for a pickup of 31 yards. 

The arm strength here while being taken down is incredible. 

3. The Donovan 

Date: Sept. 10, 2017
Opponent: at Washington 

This was the opening game of the Super Bowl season and the Eagles got off to a fast start with this 1st-quarter touchdown that came on their first drive of the afternoon at FedEx Field. The Eagles were facing a 3rd-and-12 before Wentz was able to buy a ton of time and deliver a 58-yard touchdown throw to Nelson Agholor, who then did the rest. 

Wentz bought around 9-10 seconds on this play and it sort of reminded me of a mini version of that Donovan McNabb scramble against the Cowboys in 2004. On this play, Wentz scrambled but then didn’t get a chance to set his feet before heaving the ball deep to Agholor. 

2. The Seattle Sling

Date: Dec. 3, 2017
Opponent: at Seattle 

This one will get overlooked by many people because the Eagles suffered their worst loss of the 2017 season in Seattle on Sunday Night Football. And by the time this play happened, the score was already 17-3 to start the 4th quarter. But Wentz’s ability to deliver this football was astounding. 

Wentz was getting tackled while rolling and still threw the ball 45 yards in the air, over a defender, to Agholor for a big gain. There aren’t many players on the planet capable of doing that. 

1. The rocket to Miles 

Date: Dec. 15, 2019
Opponent: at Washington

I’m a little embarrassed about how many times I watched this play last season. In the Eagles’ 37-27 win over the Redskins, Wentz hit Miles Sanders for this 15-yard touchdown. Once the play breaks down, Wentz fakes rolling to his left and goes right, to his strong side. He scans the field and realizes his best play is to threat the needle through two defenders to the rookie in the very back of the end zone. 

While Sanders makes a great grab, the throw is a thing of beauty. The other angle shows just how spectacular it really is. 

Honorable mentions: There were three notable plays I left on the cutting room floor.  

• Wentz threw an absolute bomb to Mack Hollins on Oct. 23, 2017 on Monday Night Football against the Redskins. He had time to plant his back foot but launched the ball 60 yards in the air to Hollins in stride for a touchdown. 

• In his third-career game, against the Steelers on Sept. 25, 2016, Wentz maneuvered around in the pocket and stepped up to hit Darren Sproles wheeling out of the backfield for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Sproles made some people miss on the back end. 

• In the 2019 season, Wentz stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and as he was being tackled, threw a laser to Hollins for a first down against the Falcons on Sept. 15, 2019. 

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Carson Wentz speaks out against institutional racism in wake of George Floyd’s death

Carson Wentz speaks out against institutional racism in wake of George Floyd’s death

Carson Wentz doesn’t often speak out about social or racial issues but the Eagles’ franchise quarterback made a notable and worthwhile exception on Thursday evening, condemning institutional racism in the United States following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on Monday. 

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis on Monday night by a police officer in an incident caught on camera. The officer kneeled on his neck for an extended period of time while Floyd was handcuffed. 

Wentz, who grew up in North Dakota, about six hours from Minneapolis, tweeted the following heartfelt and thoughtful message on Thursday night: 

Been thinking about the George Floyd situation and thinking of the words to say & coming up empty. All I know is that the institutional racism in this country breaks my heart and needs to stop. Can’t even fathom what the black community has to endure on a daily basis. 

Being from North Dakota, I’ve spent a large part of my life surrounded by people of similar color, so I’m never gonna act like I know what the black community goes through or even has gone through already. I’ll never know the feeling of having to worry about my kids going outside because of their skin color. 

However, I do know that we are all equal at the foot of the cross and Jesus Taught us to value others’ lives like they were our own — regardless of skin tone. 

So, this might see like a ramble — and perhaps it is. I don’t understand the society that we live in that doesn’t value all human life. It’s heartbreaking and disturbing. My prayers go out to every man, woman, and child that has to endure the effects of racism in our society. 

Shortly after Wentz’s statement, Zach Ertz sent out his own statement on the situation. 

The video of the incident shows Floyd on the ground, handcuffed, as a police officer kneels on his neck, even after Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. 

The four police officers involved in the incident have been fired but as of Thursday evening had not been charged with any crimes. 

The Vikings released a statement on Wednesday: 

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of life that occurred Monday evening just blocks from our stadium. Everyone in our community deserves the right to feel protected and safe. Our thoughts are with the George Floyd family and all individuals who have been affected by this tragedy."

Wentz and Ertz’s speaking out is also notable, frankly, because they’re white athletes. Many minority athletes have spoken out since Floyd’s death but having star white athletes join them is very important. 

Back when Malcolm Jenkins was raising his fist during the National Anthem to demonstrate against social and racial inequality and injustice, Chris Long began to put his arm around Jenkins in a show of solidarity. Long, at the time, told Jenkins that more white men needed to be allies in the fight. 

Wentz and Ertz positioned themselves as allies on Thursday night. 

While Wentz has been very philanthropic during his four-year NFL career, he has mostly steered clear of any social, racial or political statements. He made a worthwhile exception here, using his platform to call out something that is clearly wrong, disturbing and sadly not unfathomable. 

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