In the back right corner of the Eagles’ locker room on Tuesday, Lane Johnson was swarmed by dozens of reporters, microphones and cameras shoved into the 26-year-old’s face.
Three lockers down, Halapoulivaati Vaitai couldn’t help but grin.
“It’s just like Day One, hearing Lane’s voice, that goofy voice,” Vaitai said. “He makes me laugh every time.”
Everyone was happy to see Johnson back from a 10-game suspension on Tuesday. Players were excited, because it meant their team was better. And writers were excited because it meant one of the best quotes in the locker room had returned.
He didn’t disappoint.
“It was a shitty situation,” Johnson said, frankly, when asked how hard it was to sit at home in Oklahoma instead of helping his team this season. “You can put that on record.”
Good to have you back, Lane.
Johnson spoke at his locker for about 10 minutes on Tuesday, his first comments to reporters since October 11, when his suspension was upheld by an arbitrator.
The fourth-year right tackle spent his two-plus months back home in Oklahoma City, where he spent about five weeks working out after a bit of a break.
“The first couple weeks I didn’t really do a whole lot of nothing,” Johnson said, “but I got back into it and was training out there.”
He returned to the team weighing 322 pounds; when he left the team, he weighed around 319, according to head coach Doug Pederson.
The suspension was Johnson’s second as a pro, and, as you might remember, a little more contentious than the first. Johnson asserted that the NFLPA failed him in this case; their mobile application, which is supposed to protect players from banned substances, supposedly told him a supplement was safe for him to take, but it turns out it wasn’t.
Then, last month, Johnson filed formal complaints against the NFL and NFLPA. That situation is still ongoing.
On Tuesday, however, Johnson wasn’t interested in pointing tons of fingers. He accepted blame, while also reminding reporters that things weren’t yet settled.
“I don’t put the blame on others,” Johnson said. “I’m on a lot of people’s shit lists, but I’ve got a few people on my shit list as well, so that thing will get settled here in the next few months. We’ll see what happens.”
His official stance, however, was more so one of remorse. He said as he watched the Eagles lose eight of 10 games in his absence, he thought about what could’ve been had he been able to play those games.
“It’s something that weighs on my mind all the time, even right now when I’m with the team,” Johnson said. “I feel like a lot of things could’ve happened differently with this season. Not saying one player can do that much, but I feel like I could’ve helped the team in a lot of good ways.”
He’s not sure how ready he’ll be for Thursday’s game against the Giants -- “we’ll see if I’m up for it,” he said -- but Johnson still feels he belongs in discussion as one of the NFL’s best players at his position, despite the absence.
“I still feel I’m one of the best right tackles in the league, if not the best right tackle there is,” Johnson said. “Having said that, I’ve still got a lot to prove, and I’m going to keep doing that every time I’m out there, trying to be the best player I can be.”
Part of that effort means Johnson, who has for the first four years of his career been a font of wisdom and humor in the locker room, might rein his personality in a bit. said
“That’s why they drafted me here, to play tackle for them, and they need me on the field,” Johnson said. “That’s where I haven’t been. The past couple years, I’m four years in and really only played three, so that tells you about that. From now on, no more strikes, or I’m out. So I know what’s at stake. I think this’ll bring the best out of me as a player, and hopefully as a person.
“This is hard. I don’t care who believes it or not, but words can’t express anything. I just have to show by actions. Over the next few years, it’s less talking and more action.”