Lane Johnson: Moving past last season’s suspension
We had to bring Lane Johnson, the league’s best right tackle, up at some point didn’t we?
It just feels like things are coming together. Right tackle Lane Johnson returning is a big reason for that. Many are skeptical about the idea of the Philadelphia Eagles making the playoffs, but when you think about the fact that this was a seven-win team a season ago, it can create some excitement. When you realize the team won those seven games with basically nothing on the roster and they’ve upgraded at so many areas of need, it can definitely get one excited.
Many are already channeling their inner prognosticator and weighing the possibilities for 2017. This is a team that could have easily won at least three more games in 2016. There’s no reason the Eagles couldn’t have hung losses on the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys (that overtime loss in Arlington still stings a little).
A quick history lesson:
Some of the disarray can be attributed to a rookie quarterback, a putrid receiving corps and untimely injuries. Then, of course, there was the suspension of the league’s best right tackle, Lane Johnson. Following a four-game suspension by the league in 2014 for a PED violation, Johnson knew any further disciplinary action for the same reason would be more severe, but, unfortunately for him and Eagles fans, said action would come relatively quickly.
Johnson was informed in July of 2016 that he had tested positive for a banned substance. He asked for an appeal, largely based on the fact that he checked a mobile application provided by the NFL Player’s Association called “Aegis”. In Johnson’s defense, he believed the supplement he used to be one that was approved by the league based on his findings, but unfortunately, when it came time to rule on the appeal, an arbitrator ruled in October to uphold the ten-game suspension the league handed down only months earlier.
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His absence was obvious. In the six games the Eagles played with Johnson on the field they had a record of 5-1, and their one loss with him on the field came in the game in Detroit, a game many believe they should have won anyway. They won two games and lost eight without him and, many times, struggled on the right side of the offensive line to find consistent production.
Moving into 2017:
The big guy’s back now, and he’s the heir apparent to eventually replace Jason Peters at left tackle. Peters recently signed a one-year extension, and that, basically, guarantees he’ll retire as a member of the Eagles. There’s been some talk that moving him to the guard position is a possibility, which would speed up the transition for Johnson and possibly place Halapoulivaati Vaitai (“Big V” for short) at right tackle position.
Johnson’s eliminated the supplements, fried food and sweets from his diet. In the place of those things, he’s added chicken, beef, fish, potatoes, vegetables, particularly kale and spinach. His plan is to stay as far away from anything that could lead him to a third suspension as possible. That’s a wise decision. A third suspension would lead to a two-year ban from the league and probably end his career. He’s confident and recently had this to say:
"The deal with supplements is it’s supposed to supplement your diet, but if you get everything in your diet [that you need], you don’t have to do it."
We’ll all just have to wait and see how he performs this season. It’s pretty safe to say we’ll all be watching this one very closely.