Eagles All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks spoke honestly and bluntly Tuesday about being forced to leave Sunday's Eagles-Seahawks game in the first quarter because of an anxiety attack.
Brooks, who played only 12 snaps in a game the Eagles lost, 17-9, has battled anxiety for years and missed two games in 2016.
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Brooks signed a four-year, $54.2 million contract extension two weeks ago, and he said the pressure of living up to that deal triggered this recent bout of anxiety.
Here, in the first of a two-part Q&A, Brooks talked about what happened Sunday. Click here for Part II.
How are you feeling?
Brandon Brooks: "I'm good. I'm in a much better place. The biggest thing I feel terrible about is when my team needed me I wasn't there. I had a handle on it for 2½ years now, and I guess the silver lining is I'm definitely on the right track, but moving forward I have to plan out ways to ensure that a situation like this doesn't happen the remainder of the season.
"The important part is when you have an issue, seek help and attack it. One thing I think you guys know about me is no matter what adversity I've had since I've been here, I've always tried to face it head on and to attack it. Nothing different."
What do you remember about Sunday?
Brandon Brooks: "They (teammates) saw me coming in, how I looked, throwing up, from when I got there at 9 a.m. until the [pregame] intro. The team went out without me so I could try to figure something out. Even when I came out, hopefully cameras didn't catch it, but I was throwing up on the sideline between the two drives, the first one I went out and played. I was throwing up on the sideline until they went back out there [without me].
"It deeply pains me to not be out there. I would do whatever it takes to try to be out there with those guys. It was big for me although I was going through that and they could clearly see I was having some type of attack that I wanted to go out there and try to play as many snaps as I could, no matter what I was going through."
Any idea what brought this on?
Brandon Brooks: "I talked to myself when it happened and I think you guys saw with the rehab … whatever the bar is, or the outlier is, I will always try to exceed it. When I got the new contract, I tried to talk myself down about it. 'Hey look, you're playing great, keep doing what you're doing, no issues.' I talked to my therapist about it, it started setting in my head, ‘Hey, you've got to show everybody you're worth the money,' instead of, 'Just go out there and play. No need to change what you've been doing or anything like that.' That's what kind of brought it on. That's just the person I am. That's my double-edged sword. It's something that's always driven me, to try and be the greatest at whatever I do."
How do you balance wanting to be the best with not putting too much pressure on yourself?
Brandon Brooks: "It's something that's always driven me and sometimes driven me a little too much. It's a daily battle. I've gotten a lot better with it, not having an episode in a couple years, but stuff happens. I continue to fight day by day. It'll get better. My biggest goal is to continue to keep that space between incidents and let it get wider and wider. It's a daily battle and it will get better, man.
Why did you try to play despite going through an attack?
Brandon Brooks: "The biggest thing I wanted to do was show my teammates when I say I'll do whatever it takes to be out there, I will do whatever it takes to be out there. No matter the type of state I was in. However many plays I was able to go in my weakened state or dehydrated or whatever, I was going to try and go. That probably was the first time, no matter what was happening, I still came out and tried to play. I think it's also the first time the team, as a majority, was able to see it live happening during an actual game."
What happened after you left the game?
Brandon Brooks: "First, I tried to do the same routine I did before the game. Hopefully it would calm down maybe that way and maybe try to come back out. After that maybe just give me an IV and I'll be good. I literally was trying to do whatever I could to get back out there in whatever way possible. Had the team psychologist, listened to whatever he had to tell me. And then after that just try to get IVs and get my body to calm down."
What gives you confidence this won't happen again?
Brandon Brooks: "The biggest thing for me [is] talking to my therapist, getting back on that once a week, and the night before taking medication to ensure I wake up the next day and I'm pretty even keel going into the game."
Will you be OK for the Dolphins game Sunday?
Brandon Brooks: "The show goes on, man. I'll be fine. When situations like this happen, man, I'll attack it, but these guys are just too important to me - no matter what just happened - for me to shelter myself when it comes to this. What happened on Sunday isn't going to stop me. That's still my focus, the Miami Dolphins, and going to attack the week."
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