When Lane Johnson was banished, the Eagles were 3-1.
Ten weeks later, they’re 5-9.
Three wins and 29 points per game with him.
Two wins and 20 points per game without him.
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Cause and effect? To some extent, yes. The Eagles didn’t go 2-8 during Johnson’s 10-game suspension for a positive test for a banned substance solely because Johnson was out. But it sure didn’t help.
“It weighs on my mind all the time,” Johnson said Tuesday, after his first practice with the Eagles since Oct. 7.
“I feel like a lot of things could have happened differently with the season. I’m not saying one player could do that much but I feel like I could have helped the team in a lot of different ways.”
Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, missed the first four games of the 2014 season with his first suspension. So he’s now missed 14 of the Eagles’ last 46 games because of NFL suspensions.
One more positive test would result in a two-year suspension and essentially end his Eagles career and perhaps his NFL career.
“I feel like I let the team down,” Johnson said. “I feel like we had momentum when I left. I felt like we should be 4-0 after that game, after the Detroit game. It just sucks the way it is.
“It’s all on me. But all I can do is go play. I can talk all day about it, but it’s really going to be showing and proving that through the rest of my contract.”
Johnson last played against the Lions on Oct. 9, and his appeal was denied two days later. He was eligible to return to the NovaCare Complex on Monday morning, and head coach Doug Pederson has said he’ll start Thursday night against the Giants.
In his absence, the Eagles have used four different right tackles — Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Tobin, Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo, who all got hurt to varying degrees.
“That’s why they drafted me here, to play tackle for them,” Johnson said. “They need me on the field for them and that’s where I haven’t been the last couple years.
“Been four years in and really only played three. From now on, no more strikes or I’m out. I know what’s at stake and I think this will 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’m just going to have to show by action. Over the next few years, just less talk and more action.”
The Eagles, 5-9 and playing out the string, are home Thursday night for a national TV game against a Giants team that’s 10-4 and has won eight of nine since a 2-3 start.
They finish the season on Jan. 1 against the Cowboys, also at the Linc.
“I’m going to try and play as hard as I can and that’s all I can do,” he said. “That’s all I can control, just how hard I play. ... It’s going to be tough after 10 weeks off, but my goal was to stay in shape and be ready when I came back."
“Hopefully help us get a win and then go get a win next week against the Cowboys. That’s all I can do.”
Johnson was suspended after a supplement he took was found during laboratory testing to include a banned peptide that Johnson said wasn't on the product’s label.
He said back in September that he’ll no longer take any supplements because he can’t risk another positive test.
“You don’t necessarily need it,” he said. “You can get everything you need from food.”
He said he can still be an effective player without taking supplements.
“People accused me of steroid use coming out of college,” he said. “Whatever. I’m bigger than I’ve ever been. I’m 320, 320-plus. I’m fine where I’m at.”
Johnson is under contract through 2021 with base salaries of $7.75 million next year, $10 million in 2018, $10.6 million in 2019, $8.585 million in 2020 and $8.065 million in 2021.
But no components of his deal remain guaranteed, which certainly puts a tremendous amount of pressure on him to perform at a high level.
“I still feel I’m one of the best right tackles in the league,” he said. “If not the best right tackle there is.
“But having said that, I still have a lot to prove and I’m going to keep proving that every game I’m out there, trying to be the best player I can be.”