Eagles coach Nick Sirianni opens up on Lane Johnson's ordeal

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Eagles coach Nick Sirianni opens up on Lane Johnson's ordeal originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

For Nick Sirianni, Lane Johnson wasn’t a right tackle who was missing for a few games. He was a family member who needed help.

Sirianni believes deeply in the power of connection, something he spoke extensively about with NBC Sports Philadelphia back in June, and situations like this are why.

Johnson, the Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl right tackle, returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday after missing the last three games while addressing his own issues with depression and anxiety.

On Wednesday morning, Sirianni said his only priority during Johnson’s absence was making sure the 30-year-old veteran had all the resources he needed to help him cope with the mental health crisis he was experiencing.

“Any situation that our players have to go through, we’re going to be there for them and we’re going to feel for them in tough times,” he said. “It’s a family. Our football team, our building, is like a family and when your family members go through something you hurt for them and you feel for them and you want to be there for them. 

“And that’s with Lane and the situation that he’s going through and just with everybody on our team that has to go through anything and sometimes that’s a player being injured and them having a really hard time getting through an injury or a death of a family member, whatever it is, and so whatever it is, we just want to be with our guys and connect with our guys and be with them through the good times and the bad times.”

Sirianni said he would decide later in the week whether Johnson will play on Sunday against the Raiders in Las Vegas. Johnson last played on Sept. 27 in Dallas.

More important than that is making sure the franchise is there for Johnson not just now but moving forward as he returns to football.

“The first thing, with all our conversations with players, we want to start with connecting, and connecting has to go beyond what you do on the field,” he said. “It has to go into your personal lives, it has to go into your family, it has to go into anything because if you want to have that relationship with your players you’ve got to have something behyond the football field, so the connecting piece is so big for us, that’s with any tough thing they have to deal with and mental health is no exception. 

“Anything our players deal with we want to be there for them … and I feel good that we’ve been able to be there for our guys through ups and downs and we’ll continue to be there for them.”

The Eagles have psychologists and counselors available for players and other resources to provide support and guidance to anyone in the building – player or staff member - experiencing any kind of mental health challenge.

At one point, pro athletes experiencing depression or anxiety were simply told to grit you’re your teeth, toughen up and get back to work.

Things have changed to the point where someone like Johnson gets complete support and as much time as he needs before returning to the football field.

“I think we’re always aware of mental health and issues like that, just with the doctors that we have, the trainers that we have, with the people in our building associated with mental health, too,” he said. “Because we know that’s an issue in our society right now and we want to make sure we have all the resources needed for our players, not just on the field but off the field as well.”

Sirianni praised Johnson who, like Brandon Brooks before him, has helped bring some very important issues into the public eye by being open and honest with his situation.

“When you’re vocal about it I think that’s good because I think what it does, it helps other people that are going through (it),” he said.

“I think probably when you go through something like that you think you’re alone in that scenario and when someone comes out like that with their issues it kind of brings light to the situation and it helps other people that are going through something similar.” 

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