Philadelphia officials announced Tuesday that fans almost certainly won't be allowed at Eagles home games this season, an unfortunate result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and one that will make for a particularly unique 2020 NFL season.
Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson learned also learned about the news Tuesday, at the same time as fans. In an appearance Wednesday on NFL Network's Good Morning Football, Johnson said the news caught him by surprise:
I really don't know what to say - as far as what we do in practice - but we thrive on the fans' energy and their presence, so hearing the news yesterday was definitely shocking. As far as my reaction, I'm really speechless for what to say. It's a really weird situation for us.
Johnson's seen the highs and lows of home Eagles games during his seven years with the team, but recent history suggests a fan-less stadium will probably hurt the Birds' home field advantage.
The Eagles have the fourth-best home record in the NFL since Doug Pederson took over as head coach in 2016, going 25-10 at the Linc. Only the Patriots, Vikings, and Packers have better home records in that time span.
And a guy like Johnson, one of the team's emotional leaders, formed a pretty strong bond with the fanbase, like when he and Chris Long started the underdog mask craze en route to the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl. The player-fan connection is one of the intangible parts of live football games that will be missing this year.
Johnson also reacted to Tuesday's other Eagles news, Jason Peters returning to Philadelphia on a one-year deal to play right guard:
You can't really replace a Brandon Brooks, who's the best guard in the league, but this has been in the works, I guess, for a few weeks. They finally worked out the details, and got the big man back. I'm excited, man. I'm excited to have him next to me, a guy that I've looked up to and really has been my mentor ever since coming into the league. So it's huge for us.
Johnson was one of many Eagles players thrilled to see Peters back for another year in Philadelphia.
The Eagles' first home game of the 2020 regular season is scheduled for Sept. 20 against the Rams. We'll see what the offense, and the stadium, looks like.
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