By the time the 2021 season begins, Lane Johnson will be 31, he will have missed a total of 14 games over his previous two seasons and his left ankle will have undergone two significant surgeries.
Despite all that, Johnson still thinks he can get back to playing at an All-Pro level.
“Yeah, most definitely,” Johnson said on Friday. “I think even though I was hindered this year, I feel like my power was pretty good. But really it doesn’t matter if you’re not out there for whole games, if you’re not playing. My thing is to get healthy. (I get) paid a lot of money to stay on the field and play so moving forward, that’s all on my mind.”
Johnson announced on Friday that his 2020 season is over after he was able to play in just seven games. During those seven games, he played through considerable pain and swelling in his left ankle after a tightrope surgery late in the summer.
That tightrope procedure was supposed to fix the problem and maybe it did structurally but Johnson still had to tough it out to play this season. And after all that, he now needs surgery to repair his deltoid ligament, saying it’s like the inside of his ankle “collapsed.”
When healthy, there are few tackles better than Johnson in the NFL. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2017. But in the last couple years, it’s been tough for him to stay on the field. In 2019, the Eagles’ right tackle missed four regular season games and the playoff game and in 2020 he will end up missing a total of nine games.
Johnson turns 31 on May 8.
Johnson’s next surgery isn’t scheduled yet but it will be soon. After that, he’s looking at four or five months of recovery time, which would mean he’ll be ready for the 2021 season. But he said he’ll know more in June or July.
“My goal is to put this behind me to where it’s something I don’t have to think about,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to be thinking about before games or during the week. … I’ve seen guys come back from far worse. You’ve seen (Brandon) Brooks come back from tearing an Achilles and was the best guard in the league the next year.”
That is the obvious hope for the Eagles. They will need Johnson to not just return in 2021 but to return to playing at an extremely high level. Because a little less than a year ago, they gave Johnson a four-year contract extension worth $72 million, making him one of the highest-paid offensive tackles in the NFL. He has cap hits of $17.8M, $14.1M, $21.3M, $19.2M and $20.0M in the five years remaining under contract.
Johnson is the only Eagle under contract through the 2025 season.
After a frustrating 2020 season, Johnson is hoping this upcoming surgery will finally fix the problem. He just wants to be healthy again. Johnson thinks if that happens, he’ll be the type of player he’s always been.
“Yeah, it’s just more inability to stay healthy that’s more frustrating,” Johnson said. “You get paid a contract to play like one of the best tackles in the league. You go out there and you can’t finish games and you’re not out there. As far as being a setback, that’s what it is. It is what it is. People deal with injuries. It’s just a matter of recovering for this and coming back fully healthy, play a season, don’t worry about it and get back to functioning normally.”
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