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.”

After his younger brother’s success, Marken Michel ready to make a name for himself

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After his younger brother’s success, Marken Michel ready to make a name for himself

As Marken Michel has been clawing to create a football career of his own, he watched as his younger brother went to a college powerhouse, got drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and then became a Super Bowl champion as a rookie. 

That would make a lot of guys jealous. 

Not him. 

“There’s never been a bone of jealousy in that relationship at all,” said Allen Pinder, a close family friend whom Marken and Sony Michel consider an older brother. 

While Sony has found fast success in the NFL, his older brother (by about year and a half) has taken a more circuitous route. 

Marken Michel, 25, went undrafted out of UMass in 2016, spent that summer with the Vikings and then went to the Canadian Football League for the past couple seasons before joining the Eagles in January. 

After an impressive offseason, Sony’s older brother might finally have his own chance to stick in the NFL. 

At the end of the day, I said this my first year when I came out of college,” Marken said last week, “one of us is going to put that last name on an NFL jersey. Whether it’s me or him or both of us. He knows I’m super proud of him. I’m always there with him every step of the way. I’m always going to root for him.

Always competitive

While Marken is a receiver now, he was a quarterback until his junior year of high school. Sony, of course, was the running back, who played varsity football as an eighth-grader. Pinder, 37, doesn’t think that would have happened without older bro watching out for him. 

In fact, Pinder thinks a lot of Sony’s football success can be directly attributed to Marken. 

“Marken pushed Sony and Sony wanted to be like Marken,” Pinder said in a phone call last week to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Marken started off with more success than Sony did and it has kind of driven Sony to be like, ‘I need to get where Marken’s at.’ Marken always fueled Sony. ‘I need to work harder, I need to be better.’”

As you might imagine between two athletic brothers who are a year and a half apart, there was a constant competition between them as they grew up in Florida. They competed in everything. Football, baseball, basketball. 

Marken said they used to have 3-point shootouts at their childhood park. He was asked who is ahead in the all-time tally and he didn’t hesitate. 

“Me,” he said. “Of course.” 

Would Sony corroborate that? 

“He better, or he’ll be lying.” 

The two are wildly competitive but are also best friends. When they talk, it’s rarely about football. But, of course, when Sony played in Super Bowl LIII in February, Marken was there rooting for him. Marken said that Sony knows when he’s watching him play, he better not mess up. 

Sony’s Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, 13-3, over the Rams. Sony had 18 carries for 94 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown. 

“He knew it,” Marken said. “He knew if he didn’t, I would be on him.” 

North of the border

After things didn’t work out for Michel in Minnesota, where Pinder thinks he wasn’t really given a great opportunity, he ended up with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. He was the CFL West Division Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was a part of the Grey Cup-winning team in 2018, although he missed the end of the season with a broken scapula. 

He was bummed to miss the Grey Cup in November but was thrilled his team won. Since he was in OTAs in May, he and linebacker Alex Singleton (who is also on the Eagles’ roster) missed the ring ceremony. Singleton was heading north for the Stampeders first game of the season this past weekend and Michel gave him the job of bringing his ring back to him. 

In two years in the CFL, Michel made a name for himself, catching 72 passes for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns. He had so much success, it wasn’t easy to leave. 

“I kind of felt like I had a good situation up there in Canada,” Michel said. 

Back to the NFL 

Michel didn’t tell anyone when he signed with the Eagles. His family — Sony and Pinder, included — found out when the Eagles announced it on Twitter. 

Pinder said he knew Michel had a couple workouts, but he didn’t know how they went. When confronted by his brother via text, Michel simply texted back a smiling emoji. 

“I’m real low key,” Michel said. “I don’t like the spotlight.”

But he found it this spring. Michel has emerged as a real contender to steal one of the final roster spots at receiver for the Eagles. In the absence of a few starters at OTAs and minicamp, Michel even got some first-team reps and worked well with Carson Wentz.  

If things don’t pan out with the Eagles, Michel could probably go back to Canada and resume what was already a promising career, but he’s trying not to think about that or anything aside from giving this chance everything he has. 

But he is well aware the Eagles play the Patriots this season. If he makes the team, little brother will be waiting.

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Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices

Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices

The last time I predicted the Eagles’ 53-man roster was before OTAs and minicamp, so we have more to go on now. 

The Eagles had a total of 13 practices and reporters were allowed to watch seven of them. Based on what I’ve seen over the last several weeks, I’ve updated my prediction: 

Here is is: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson 

This didn’t change. Thorson didn’t have a very good spring, but I still think they’re going to use a roster spot on him. Over the last couple weeks, he’s looked overwhelmed and has made some poor decisions and equally poor throws, but he’s a fifth-round rookie. Unless he’s awful in training camp, I think this is his spot. 

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers 

No changes here either. These guys are pretty much cemented. Goedert had a tremendous spring. 

WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Marken Michel  

I think these top four guys are still making it. I know Hollins still isn’t a full-go, but his ability on special teams keeps him around. Last time, I had them keeping five receivers, but I think there’s a chance they keep six. And I think there’s a better chance of them keeping an extra offensive player than a defensive player. Then, I gave this last spot to Michel, but there are plenty of candidates: Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, Charles Johnson. I think that’s a pretty talented group, talented enough that one of them will do enough to force the Eagles to keep six wideouts. 

OL (10): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor 

The only change from the last time is Wiz is back on here after being re-signed. That kicked Ryan Bates off the list, but he has a chance to stick as a practice squad player. I do wonder about Pryor’s job security. He was a sixth-rounder last year and they kept him on the roster all year, but with Big V’s emergence as a guard, there might be less of a use for Pryor, who they might be able to keep around on the practice squad. 

RB (4): Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Boston Scott 

The big change here is Scott over Wendell Smallwood. No, I don’t think it’s really fair to compare Scott to Darren Sproles and I’m not on the hype train yet, but Scott had a good spring and might be a more complementary player than Smallwood or Josh Adams. And his ability as a punt returner is what might most help him make the team. 

DE (5): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller

No changes here, although I do think Daeshon Hall might push for a job. I’ll need to see more from him when the pads go on. 

DT (5): Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester 

Last time, I had just four DTs, but keeping five makes sense and I was able to steal a spot from the cornerback group (more on that soon). Hester and Ridgeway might be competing for the same spot, but there’s a decent chance both are on the roster. 

LB (5): Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort, Zach Brown, Nate Gerry

I kept six last time because I wasn’t sure which player to remove. Sorry, Paul Worrilow. It’s not that he had a bad spring, but that knee injury did flare up and it’s starting to feel like all five of these guys are definitely going to be on the roster. 

CB (5): Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc 

You’ll notice the omission of Jalen Mills, who is still coming back from a lengthy foot injury. While other recovering players have been working out on side fields, Mills has been noticeably absent and I’m beginning to wonder just how close he is. I heard a few weeks ago that he was expecting to be ready for training camp, but we’ll see. Until I see him doing something, I’m not ready to keep a roster spot for him. I don’t think the PUP is out of the question. 

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Andrew Sendejo, Tre Sullivan

Folks want to cut Sendejo to save a compensatory pick, but I don’t see it happening. Sendejo has been working as as starter as McLeod recovers, so I think he’s their third safety for now. Sendejo had a good offseason, so he would need to play poorly this summer to get cut. 

ST (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato 

Unless Kamu really applies himself to becoming a kicker, these three are set.

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