It has been an ordeal, a daily one for sure, getting right tackle Lane Johnson on the field this season. Knee and ankle injuries have limited Johnson to five starts and 296 snaps (59 percent of the offense) through the first half of the season, but as the Eagles prepare for Sunday and the second eight games of 2020 to kick off at the Giants, Johnson says he's ready to go.
As in, play football and stay on the field. Fingers crossed for Johnson who recently had his ankle drained to give him a chance to start on the right side on Sunday after a week of good practice, albeit limited.
"The way it all panned out, having (the surgery) before the season, trying to play and get back, fighting through it. It is what it is," Johnson said. "Lots of guys have done this before but, really, if I'm out there feeling good, I'll be playing good. It's just been frustrating more than anything having to miss games, but ultimately, it's how your body responds. This week has probably been the best week as far as the most practice that I've done, so that's been a positive."
A first-round draft pick in 2013, Johnson has never been on Injured Reserve, but in only three seasons (2013, 2014, 2017) has Johnson been healthy and eligible (he was twice suspended for violating the NFL's substance policy) has he gone the distance (in 2017 Johnson rested the final game of the regular season). In 2019, Johnson played 12 games, missing time with a left ankle injury that lingered into this offseason. That injury, combined with a knee injury, has kept Johnson busy with rehab and recovery through 2020.
The good news is that he is on track to play on Sunday against a good Giants defense that gave the Eagles' offense a tough time in the October 22 game at Lincoln Financial Field, a 22-21 comeback win for the Eagles. Johnson has played in every offensive snap in only one game this year – against Cincinnati – and he departed in-game against San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and the Giants while missing games against Washington, Baltimore, and Dallas.
It's been that kind of a tough season for a very tough man who loves the game of football. The bye week, combined with sitting out the Dallas game, gives Johnson hope that he will be out there on Sunday – and stay out there at right tackle, where he is the game's best.
"I think the bye week was big for me," Johnson said about his ankle, "as far as the best that it's been. It's been pretty good this week, limited pain and swelling. It's something that I'll probably have to deal with the rest of the year. As long as I'm not feeling as much pain as I was in the beginning (of the season), I'll be fine. I'll be able to go through it."
Johnson said he would wear a knee brace for the rest of the season, on the advice of former Eagles' Pro Bowl left tackle Tra Thomas, but he knows it is tough to avoid someone falling on his leg, onto that troublesome ankle. Those are the challenges in this trench warfare. It's just part of the game.
So is getting healthy. And the Eagles may be getting healthy at the right time with left guard Isaac Seumalo practicing all week as his 21-day practice window is open. He could be activated off of Injured Reserve for Sunday's game.
"Getting the boys back together," Johnson said. "It's good to see the familiar faces in the huddle. Any time you can get the experience back on the line – a lot of guys have played a lot of ball here through the years – the better we'll be."