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.”

Healed from knee injury, Corey Clement looks like himself again

Healed from knee injury, Corey Clement looks like himself again

Corey Clement looks like himself again. If you didn’t know the third-year running back tore up his knee last December, watching practice on Monday against the Ravens, you certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell. 

Getting first-team reps for the first time this summer, the 23-year-old running back looked strong, explosive, smooth. Clement looked way less like a guy coming off knee rehab and way more like the guy who carved out a relatively significant offensive role as a rookie in 2017. 

He’s not even wearing that bulky brace anymore. 

“I’m out here naked,” said a smiling Clement, looking down at his bare right knee. “I’m fine.”

And he’s pretty happy to be done with that brace. 

I hate it,” he said with a laugh. “It feels like I got a little guy on my leg. 

“Realizing that if my mobility is fine without it, it’s the mental part I gotta get over. I’m like, ‘I don’t need the brace, I don’t need the brace, I don’t need the brace.’ I have had good practice reps without it and that boosts my morale without it to show I can do it.

While Clement is starting to look like himself to the rest of us, he started to feel like himself during the first week of training camp. That’s when he took a rep and somebody bumped into him and his rehabilitated knee. It’s a physical game, Clement said, so it was nice to get that out of the way. In fact, he wanted it to happen to see how he’d react. It was fine. 

Now, Clement claims there’s nothing to worry about. 

On Monday, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh was asked if Clement is where he needs to be coming off the injury: 

Well, he's cleared, but he hasn't played a whole lot. I wouldn't say he's where he needs to be because he just needs to get more time out here. We're trying to accelerate that process here with two weeks to go. Trying to catch him up, if that's fair to say. Physically, he feels really good, and we just want to work him back in as quickly as possible.

The Eagles have brought Clement back in steps, ramping up his workload as the summer has progressed. First individual drills, then 7-on-7s, then 11-on-11s. On Monday, he took 11-on-11 reps with the first team against a foreign defense. 

And he’s looked good in all of it. 

This week, Clement said, they actually prepared for the Ravens a bit; they are trying to treat this a little bit like a normal game week. And this is a Ravens team that boasted one of the best overall defenses in the league last season, so it’s a good test. Clement passed the test on Day 1. 

Clement would like to play in Thursday’s third preseason game, but he isn’t sure if he’ll be given the go-ahead. He probably won’t know until Wednesday. 

“I want to play. I want to play football,” Clement said. “Just like BG (Brandon Graham) likes playing in preseason, I like playing in preseason. I don’t want to shy away from football. Football’s fun.”

It’s even more fun when you’re back to being yourself.

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Malcolm Jenkins weighs in on NFL's controversial partnership with Jay-Z

Malcolm Jenkins weighs in on NFL's controversial partnership with Jay-Z

Nearly one week after a controversial partnership was struck between the NFL and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins sounded cautiously optimistic about its potential impact.

The twofold agreement somewhat benignly tasks Jay-Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation with improving the NFL’s live musical performances such as the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and perhaps more alarmingly tasks the rapper with “amplify(ing) the league’s social justice efforts.”

Critics of the deal — and there are many — view the latter function as anything from a cynical money grab on the part of Jay-Z to a perversion of the social justice ideals that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled over.

Jenkins, who himself has been on the forefront of the fight for social justice reform, working with officials in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., implied there isn’t yet enough information to pass judgment on the new partnership, noting Jay-Z has a history of involvement in such matters.

We’re all kind of waiting to see kind of what the details are,” said Jenkins after Monday’s practice. “As a player who’s had to negotiate with the league and sit across from billionaires and talk about issues and why they should be important and why the NFL should be highlighting them, I think having somebody like Jay-Z who can add to that conversation — he does these things on a daily basis, has a history of doing those things — helps us as players to have an ally like that, so I’m looking forward to seeing what that turns into.

Of course, Jenkins and those in Kaepernick’s camp haven’t always seen eye to eye. Panthers safety Eric Reid once referred to the Eagles star as a “sellout” during an on-field confrontation, though the two have since mended fences.

It’s perhaps worth noting then that Kaepernick did not name Jenkins in a recent Tweet that some construed as a shot toward the Jay-Z deal.

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