Lane Johnson returned to the NovaCare Complex this week and found an entire locker room of friends willing to do anything for him.
“Everyone in this locker room and this building supports Lane,” Rodney McLeod said Wednesday. “It’s deeper than football and we understand that he has some things that he has to work on before he can return to play and we’ve all accepted that and just support him and put our arms around him, honestly.
“Everybody’s expressed, ‘Hey, I’m here for you, I’m a shoulder to lean on, I’m here to listen to you,’ and so I think it opens your eyes to a lot of issues that guys face and go through. We play this sport, we sacrifice so much and you never know what it takes away from an individual.
"So someone like Lane, a player of his caliber, speaking out on this issue, I’m sure it will just help other guys be able to come out and speak out before it gets to that point. At the end of the day, I just want him to be healthy, I want him to be safe and we’re here for him.”
Johnson practiced Wednesday for the first time since he left the team on Oct. 3, the morning of the Eagles-Chiefs game at the Linc. He missed three games to work on his mental health after suffering from depression and anxiety.
Head coach Nick Sirianni said he doesn’t know yet if Johnson will be back in his old right tackle spot. Johnson practiced Wednesday but was limited.
“He knows we all have his back,” said Fletcher Cox, Johnson’s teammate for nine years. “We all have our problems, and everybody’s got a different deal and you’ve got to feel for a guy. You see him and try to pick him up and just talk to him and just be normal. We just want him to know the guys in the locker room have his back”
“He’s been out of the building for some time and he shouldn’t feel bad about anything. We all have real-life problems, we’re all human, and I think sometimes people, they don’t realize that, they forget, they think that we’re built-proof. But we all have his back and we look forward to seeing No. 65 out there Sunday.”
Fair to say Johnson is one of the most popular guys on the team. With his booming personality, deadpan sense of humor and genuine love for his teammates, not to mention his ability as an offensive lineman, he’s someone veterans and rookies on both sides of the ball look up to.
“It’s bloody great to have Lane back,” Jordan Mailata said. “He just brings a morale boost that’s needed, especially how we’re going right now. I think just having Lane back, having our brother back, means a lot to us especially as an o-line but as the whole team perspective. Everybody missed him.
“It was a very educating time for our o-line and our team in general just to see Lane, that positive guy, that funny guy, to come out and say he’s dealing with something behind the doors. ...
"You’d never think of Lane to be like that. Definitely brought awareness, definitely taught me something about mental health.”
Just because Johnson is back doesn’t mean he’s all better. This is an ongoing battle, and he’s got a locker room full of guys who have his back.
“People go through things, and I think we have to know that and value that and respect that and I have so much respect for Lane and knowing that everybody deals with something,” Jalen Hurts said.
“Just 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 just wanted to be (there) for him and I’m happy he’s OK and I’m happy he’s back.”