Anxiety condition caused football-obsessed Brandon Brooks to miss games

Anxiety condition caused football-obsessed Brandon Brooks to miss games

Brandon Brooks wasn’t going to make up a story about stomach aches. He wasn’t going to run from the truth.

He wanted to share his story, and on Wednesday afternoon he stood at his locker for 11 minutes and did exactly that.

“Basically, I found out recently that I have an anxiety condition,” Brooks said.

Brooks, a 27-year-old offensive lineman, has missed two of the Eagles’ last three games after experiencing severe nausea in the hours prior to the game.

He had experienced these symptoms off and on for years but decided to finally figure out what was happening.

“I wanted to get to the bottom of what’s going on,” Brooks said. “Basically, I found out recently that I have an anxiety condition. What I mean by anxiety condition (is) not nervousness or fear of the game.

“What it is is that I have like an obsession with the game. It’s an unhealthy obsession right now and I’m working with team doctors to get everything straightened out and getting the help that I need and things like that.”

Brooks said he’s had on-going stomach issues like this but always assumed they were stomach-related.

This time, he sought help from the Eagles' medical staff and learned that his symptoms were in reality caused by severe anxiety spurred by his desire for perfection.

“For me, it’s just I always want to be perfect in what I do and if I’m not perfect it’s not good enough, and sometimes that just really weighs on you,” he said. 

“And I have to learn how to kind of chill out and understand it’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK to not be perfect.”

Brooks said he’s now on two different medications to help settle him down, and he’s also undergoing counseling to help him deal with what he called an “unhealthy obsession” with football.

Brooks, who signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Eagles in the spring after four years with the Texans, practiced with the Eagles on Wednesday and said he plans to play against the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.

Brooks started the first 10 games of the season at right guard and played at a consistently high level. He missed a national TV home Monday night game against the Packers on Nov. 28, played against the Bengals in Cincinnati on Dec. 4 and then missed the home game against the Redskins on Sunday at the Linc.

He said he anticipates that this won’t negatively impact his career moving forward.

“You’ve got an issue or a problem, you’ve first got to admit it and accept it,” Brooks said. “I admit it, I accept it, I own it.

“I think what a lot of times happens, I’m going like this (holds hand above his head), and I’ve got to taper it down and kind of chill and turn my brain off.”

Brooks missed a couple games with the Texans with similar symptoms and he said he was diagnosed with an ulcer following one of those games, so when he missed a second game while in Houston he assumed it was also an ulcer.

“For the longest (time), I thought it was an ulcer,” he said. “I thought it was something physical in my stomach. So I didn’t know it could possibly be something else.

“I would get sick once, maybe twice a year. It wasn’t like how it was this time, where it was one game, then I played a game, then the next game it happened again.”

Brooks said he actually sought help for his continuing stomach problems after the Packers game but said he hadn’t been on his medication long enough for it to prevent an anxiety attack the morning of the Bengals game this past weekend.

“I went out to seek help,” he said. “I realized I obviously couldn’t defeat it myself. I’m not ashamed of reaching out and asking for help and getting the help I need.”

Brooks spoke honestly and in detail about what gameday mornings have been like when he’s unable to play.

“What happens is, I wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning — not to be too graphic — but uncontrollable vomitting and there’s nothing the doctors can give me once it happens that stops it,” he said.

“It goes for a full 24 hours. That’s what happens.”

How bad are the symptoms? He described the morning of the Cincinnati game.

“Do everything I can to play but I couldn’t even stand up,” he said. “Didn’t have strength to stand up.”

He said the symptoms invariably start overnight. He said if he's able to get to the stadium a few hours before kickoff and he’s still OK, then he’s fine for kickoff.

“Once I get there I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just when I wake up sick, by that time it’s too late. I make it to the game, I’m good to go.”

Brooks said he hasn’t gotten ill just on game days.

“Only reason why you all know it’s games is because I’m not in the game,” he said. “But it happens Fridays, it happens Thursdays, Mondays.”

Brooks said he’s missed practices in the past with the same symptoms.

“It’s an obsession,” he said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s not nervousness or fear.”

Brooks said he met with his teammates and explained the situation with him. He said everybody in the organization has been supportive.

“I love the organization, the organization’s been great, they’ve supported me with this,” he said. “The head coach, my position coach, Howie (Roseman), everybody’s supported me. … My teammates have rallied around me. I told them right away.

“I’ll make it through. I’ll be OK. Nothing I’m ashamed of. I own it.”

Brooks is in the prime of his career and under contract with the Eagles through 2020.

He said he doesn’t think this will affect him in the short-term or the long-term.

“I get the help and treatment that I need, I don’t think it’ll impact me at all, my football career,” he said.

“I think I’ll be fine. Come out better for this. Come out a better person.”

Mental health and mental illness can be taboo topics, but Brooks said he never hesitated to tell his story honestly and in full.

“No. 1, I'm an honest guy and I’m going to tell y’all what’s going on,” he said. “And No. 2, it’s nothing I’m ashamed of. I’ll get the help that I need and life will go on and I’ll be fine, my career will be fine. I am concerned about it, obviously, but I’m not woe-is-me at this point.

“I’m not ashamed, I’m not embarrassed. It’s life. Hopefully if I can reach some kids out there that are going through the same thing and let them know it’s OK, life goes on, fight through it. Just like I’m trying to do.”

Eagles waive DT Bruce Hector and DB Prince Smith

Eagles waive DT Bruce Hector and DB Prince Smith

The Eagles on Friday released two players, including a defensive tackle who played in 11 games over the last two years and a Philadelphia native trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie.

The moves, along with the additions of Vinny Curry and Marcus Green, leave the roster right at the 80-man training camp limit.

The team released defensive tackle Bruce Hector and cornerback Prince Smith, an undrafted rookie who played at New Hampshire.

Hector originally made the Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent out of South Florida in 2018. He bounced up and down between the active roster and the practice squad three times and played in eight games, with 82 defensive snaps and 19 more on special teams. 

Hector, 25, was with the team in last year’s preseason but was traded on Aug. 22 to the Cards in exchange for safety Rudy Ford. But when the Cards released him nine days later, he rejoined the Eagles on Sept. 1 on the practice squad. 

He had two more stints on the practice squad and two on the active roster last year, playing 53 defensive snaps and 20 special teams snaps in three games. He was active for the Seattle playoff game and got five defensive snaps and seven on special teams.

After cutting ties with Hector, the Eagles have six defensive tackles remaining on the roster - Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway and Anthony Rush, who were all with the team last year, Steelers free agent Javon Hargrave and undrafted rookie Raequan Williams.

Smith grew up in Philadelphia and played high school football at Imhotep Institute Charter in West Oak Lane. He signed with the Eagles on April 30, just after the draft.

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How does Zach Ertz rank himself compared to Kittle and Kelce?

How does Zach Ertz rank himself compared to Kittle and Kelce?

His Madden rating dropped. His ranking among the top 100 NFL players plunged. He didn’t make all-pro. He caught 28 fewer passes than a year before.
Zach Ertz, who has more catches than any tight end in NFL history after seven seasons, is largely seen as No. 3 in the league these days behind George Kittle and Travis Kelce. 
Ertz laughs about all of it, and if there’s a sense he’s declining as a player, he sure doesn’t share it. Neither do the numbers.
“I do consider myself in that upper echelon of guys, in that same tier with all those guys,” he said on a Zoom call Friday. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think a lot of guys in this building feel the same way about me. I’m never in the business of comparing people. I think all three of us are at the top of our games, and I think we’re all perfect in the offense that we play in, honestly. I think we all have unique skill sets. We’re all very different, with some similarities. But overall I don’t think my game is any less than any of their games.”
Kelce is an incredible down-field threat. Kittle is a remarkable blocker. But Ertz just keeps putting together Pro Bowl season after Pro Bowl season.
And in the two years that Kelce, Ertz and Kittle have all been regular starting tight ends, Ertz has more catches than either of them.
You can argue that Kittle or Kelce is the best tight end in football, but you can’t argue with Ertz’s seven-year body of work.

It's unprecedented.
It includes the biggest 4th-down conversion in Super Bowl history, a 4th-quarter game-winning catch in the Super Bowl, an NFL-record 116 catches in 2018. 
He’s one of only four tight ends with six straight 700-yard seasons and one of only three with five straight 70-catch seasons.
He’s not even 30 yet, but he’s already 13th in NFL history among tight ends with 525 catches.
Just 68 catches out of 8th.
“The goal when I was a rookie was to (be) in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I sat with my trainer growing up training for the combine and he said, ‘What are your goals when you get into the NFL?’ And I said, ‘I want to be a 1st-round draft pick and I want to go to the Hall of Fame.’ Unfortunately, I was not a 1st-round draft pick - three picks later - but I came to the best situation for me here in Philly. But the Hall of Fame goal is always something that I’ve strived for.”
Every eligible tight end that’s caught 600 passes is in the Hall of Fame. 
Ertz is 75 short, and he’s 29.
Four more seasons averaging 75 catches puts him behind only Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez. Pending what Kelce does.
“You talk about accomplishments, you talk about progress, it’s never something in my opinion you look at as you’re playing,” Ertz said. “It’s always the next season. How can you become a better football  player, how can I become a better teammate? Even when we won the Super Bowl, that next offseason my mentality didn’t change and I broke the record for catches. My mentality didn’t change. It’s always, ‘How can I be better this year than I was last year?’"
“I feel the best I ever have going into Year 8. I don’t think I’m slowing down by any means. Doug and my tight ends coach (Jason Peelle) said last year was my best year as a pro that they’ve seen. So overall I’m excited with where I’m at. The end goal will never change. I’m just fortunate and blessed to even have my name in those conversations this early in my career.”
What about his contract?
Ertz has two years left at $6.6 million this year and $8.25 million next year. What if the Eagles get into cap trouble? What if Dallas Goedert continues to establish himself as an NFL top-10 tight end? What if Kittle’s forthcoming deal redefines tight end salaries?
Who knows what the future holds, but Ertz is clear about one thing.
“From the moment I got here as a rookie … my goal was to be like Kobe Bryant or Jason Witten, play for one organization their entire careers,” he said. “I’ve made that known. I’ll let my agent and Howie (Roseman) handle the rest, but I know for sure I want to be here the rest of my career.”

Is he Kittle? Nope.

Is he Kelce? Nah.

But he's Zach Ertz, and that should be good enough for every Eagles fan.

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