Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks discussed his battle with anxiety this week, one that has forced him on many Sunday mornings to vomit before games.
The man to his right, tackle Lane Johnson, also deals with anxiety in a way he hopes lessens the too-often-negative stigma around mental health and athletes.
“I’d say half the NFL has anxiety,” Johnson said this week during Super Bowl media sessions. “Not issues, but has anxiety with the pressure we’re put up against week in and week out to perform. We’re all human. We’re not monsters.”
Both men are winning their individual battles.
Johnson was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. The 6-6, 317-pounder was used to the bright lights, but the weight of the NFL was a new foe.
“Hey, you’ve got to be the next Jason Peters right away,” Johnson said of his All-Pro veteran teammate. “It takes time to develop. Having said that, though, I think having anxiety is a good motivator for a lot of players.”
Johnson and Brooks now form one of the best right sides of any NFL offensive line. Both were voted to the Pro Bowl, which they missed to prepare for the Super Bowl. Johnson said he’s seen the confidence of Brooks, drafted in the third round a year before him, grow ahead of him taking the game’s biggest stage Sunday.
“I knew the ability he had. He knew the ability he had,” Johnson said. “It was just a matter of him believing in himself. You’ve seen what he’s done. A guy with that natural gift, the size he has and the speed. There shouldn’t be anybody better than him. He’s starting to believe that now.”
Belichick never lets up
Veteran safety Devin McCourty says Patriots coach Bill Belichick is intense, even in the offseason.
“When we came in, in April, after last year’s Super Bowl, you would have thought we were 2-14 the year before,” McCourty said. “I mean we had people come in watching the meeting and they would go, ‘Geesh.’ I mean, he was ripping us apart, so to me as players that obviously keeps you on your toes.”
Was Belichick critiquing last season’s film?
“We’re talking about OTA practices,” McCourty said. “That creates a great sense of urgency across the board. … He’s like that every day. To still be coaching after 40-some years, there’s a love for the game.”
Asked if he thinks Belichick, 65, is close to retiring, the 30-year-old McCourty said, “I think I’ll retire before him.”
The Patriots are 5-2 in Super Bowls under Belichick and Tom Brady, despite one major statistical oddity: New England has not scored a point in the first quarter of any of those games. “Look, we try to score in every game,” Belichick said.
Matthew Slater is listed as a receiver on the Patriots roster, but he hasn’t caught a pass since 2011. That’s because Slater, a four-time All-Pro, is regarded as one of the best special teams players in football.