Lane Johnson is a tough guy and Wednesday’s news is just the latest example.
Johnson, 32, is going to delay his core muscle surgery and attempt to rejoin the Eagles in the playoffs.
“He's one of the toughest guys we've ever been around,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “Obviously, it says a lot about how he cares about his teammates, who he is as a teammate, and you know he's in pain, that he's just going to do whatever he needs to do to get himself ready to play, and that's for his teammates.
“Speaks of his toughness and his desire to connect and how much all his teammates mean to him.”
While Johnson has played through injuries before, it’s fair to wonder just how well the star right tackle will be able to play with this particular injury. That’s why it’s so important for the Eagles to clinch that No. 1 seed, which comes with a first-round bye, to give Johnson an extra week of rest before the divisional round.
Johnson’s long-time teammate Jason Kelce had core muscle surgery in 2014 but felt uncomfortable comparing his experience 8 years ago to Johnson’s now. He said those types of injuries are all very different.
But he wasn’t the least bit surprised that Johnson will attempt to play through it.
“That’s who Lane is,” Kelce said. “Obviously, he’s a guy who loves to play football, he’s been here for a long time. He’s put everything on the line for this team for a number of years. Doesn’t surprise me one bit. We’ll see where he’s at in a couple weeks, how he feels, him and the trainers and the medical staff will all sit down and we’ll see.”
While Kelce didn’t want to compare injuries, he at least understands how important the core is to effective line play. He said “everything starts” with the core.
“The ability to anchor, the ability to generate power starts at your feet, at your core,” Kelce explained. “So I think it’s a major injury. It’s not anything to take lightly. Hopefully, he’ll be back out there and be able to play.”
Johnson is in his 10th NFL season and was just named to his fourth career Pro Bowl last week. Before this injury, he had been relatively healthy all season and returned to his elite form. In the previous few years, Johnson had been dealing with a lingering ankle injury.
But Johnson has also made it clear in recent interviews that his NFL career is winding down and he isn’t sure how much longer he wants to play. And that’s probably part of the reason this playoff run with a special team means so much to him.
“Doesn’t surprise me Lane’s going to do that,” left tackle Jordan Mailata said. “It’s a very selfless thing to do and we started this journey back in OTAs, we knew what we were going to sacrifice. He’s just the embodiment of that. It’s a reason why he’s a captain.”
Even if Johnson returns for the playoffs, the Eagles have two games left in their regular season and will likely need to win one to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They have a few options for that right tackle position in the interim, starting with the normal backup Jack Driscoll. But the Eagles could also use Andre Dillard at left tackle and slide Mailata to the right. As you’d imagine, Sirianni was not in a hurry to divulge their plan on Wednesday.
But he did make it clear that the Eagles will miss Johnson, whom he called the best tackle in the NFL.
When it’s time for the Eagles and Johnson to really make the decision, it’ll come down to how Johnson feels and what the doctors are saying about the injury and the risk to make things worse. Sirianni said they won’t sacrifice Johnson’s health to let him play.
But the fact that Johnson is delaying the surgery shows the plan. He expects to play again this season and through the injury.
That’s also a few weeks away at the earliest.
“We'll see where we're at when we're there,” Sirianni said.
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