A year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles' entire first-string offensive line started every game and missed only 90 snaps as a group.
This year, they already know they will be without second-year right tackle Lane Johnson, who was suspended by the league last week for the first four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
"This sucks," Johnson said after reporting to the NovaCare Complex for the start of training camp. "The toughest part of it is I'm not going to be around here to battle (when the season opens).
"I felt I had a really good minicamp and OTAs. I was expecting to go out and do really well and pick up where I left off last year. I was expecting to go out there and get a good start week one. It's something I can't do now. But it's all my fault. I got nobody to blame but myself. It's all on me."
Johnson was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. He started all 16 games as a rookie. After a rough start, he found his stride and played very well the second half of the season.
"It's not a good situation there," said All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis. "Lane did something that was not very smart. It's not like he was taking something for an extended period of time. He got caught in a small window doing it, thinking it was OK to take it because he had a prescription. If he had gone through the proper channels, it would've been taken care of."
Johnson was informed in mid-May that he had tested positive for a banned substance. He appealed the test result, but his appeal was rejected.
Johnson will be allowed to participate in training camp and the Eagles' four preseason games, but then is banned from NovaCare after the final preseason game against the Jets on August 28, and will not be allowed to rejoin the team until September 29, the day after the Eagles' fourth regular-season game against San Francisco.
"It's something I just have to deal with for four weeks," Johnson said. "The toughest part is going to be not being able to even be around here. I can't play. I can't practice. I'm trying to find someplace to train (during the suspension) so that I can keep in good football shape and come back and play well."
Johnson wouldn't say exactly what banned substance he took. He said it was a prescribed drug he took briefly in April for a medical issue. He said the drug was prescribed by his family physician.
Johnson said he was back home in Texas when he took the drug, which was why he didn't run the drug by Eagles trainer Chris Peduzzi before using it.
"That's not an excuse," he said. "If you take anything, you're supposed to talk to the head trainer. That was my mistake. And I'm paying the price for it.
"The toughest part is I let the team down. I let the fans down."
Johnson, a former quarterback and tight end, clearly has added muscle and weight during the offseason. That no doubt is going to make many people skeptical about his prescribed-drug-for-a-medical-issue explanation.
"That's people's opinions," he said. "There's nothing I can do to stop it or prevent it. This is my mistake. I brought this all on myself. It's something I've got to deal with. I let my teammates down. I let Chip (head coach Chip Kelly) down. I let (general manager) Howie (Roseman) and everybody else in the organization down. That's the biggest deal with it."
Johnson was the second Eagle player this year to be suspended four games for violating the PED policy. Linebacker Jake Knott, like Johnson a second-year player, was suspended in April.
Asked Friday whether the two suspensions indicated a lack of oversight at NovaCare, Johnson said it didn't.
"It's not that," he said. "There's a list of 200 banned substances you take. They're all over the building (the list, presumably, not the banned substances).
"But athletes get carried away a little bit. Substances like that aren't FDA-regulated. So it's real easy to take something you're not aware of. But that's no excuse. They tell us in meetings all the time to talk to our trainers. That's something I didn't do."
Linebacker Connor Barwin said he thinks the relative inexperience of Johnson and Knott contributed to them taking the banned substances.
"Those are two young guys," he said. "Older guys probably wouldn't make that mistake. You know right away if (you're taking) anything from a doctor, you need to check (on its legality). Regardless if it's a foot doctor or a dermatologist or anybody. You use an Eagles doctor. The young guys have learned that and won't make that mistake again."
It's not clear how Johnson's suspension will impact on the number of repetitions he will get in the Eagles' training camp practices and preseason games. While he'll be back for the final 12 games, the coaching staff needs to give his replacement enough work this summer so that he's ready to step in and play in those first four games.
"I don't know," Johnson said. "I'll know more probably tomorrow when we start. I'm sure it will affect (my reps)."
Johnson's likely replacement will be veteran backup Allen Barbre, who has just seven career starts - all at right tackle - in six NFL seasons.
Barbre, a versatile player who can play inside or outside, had a solid training camp and preseason with the Eagles last year, which earned him the top backup job behind a line that missed a grand total of 90 snaps last year. He acquitted himself well in a Week 10 win over the Packers when he had to replace injured left tackle Jason Peters.
The Eagles signed Barbre to a three-year contract extension in early June, just two weeks after learning of Johnson's suspension.
The most likely scenario is that Barbre will replace Johnson at right tackle in the first four games. A possible, but less likely option would be to slide right guard Todd Herremans, who has made 23 of his 116 career starts at right tackle, back outside, and put Barbre inside.
"Allen's awesome," quarterback Nick Foles said. "He's a tremendous player, works hard every day. He's almost like a caveman out there. He's a big, strong, physical guy. Very smart. I feel very confident that he's going to do a great job for us."
Said Johnson: "Barbre, just watching him in practice last year, I think he can be a dominant player when he plays. I think the guys will fill my shoes well."
Rookies and veterans reported: July 25.
First practice: July 26.
Practice at Lincoln Financial Field: July 28, August 3.
Practice at Franklin Field: August 10.
Joint practice with Patriots at New England: August 12-14.
--All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis reported to camp on time after giving serious consideration to a holdout. The 32-year-old Mathis signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Eagles in March of 2012. His 2014 base salary -- $5.15 million - is the seventh highest among the league's interior linemen. But just $6 million of his $25 million was guaranteed, none of it in the final three years. Thirty-three interior linemen have deals with more guaranteed money than Mathis.
"It was easy for me to sit there and think about (holding out) a month ago," Mathis said. "But when it was getting down closer to the wire, it was just not something I could see myself doing. The ($30,000-a-day) fines had nothing to do with it. I wasn't scared of the fines. It was what I'd be doing to my teammates and coaches. That's the ultimate reason (I reported)."
--A recent Philadelphia Magazine profile on quarterback Nick Foles, which was written by "Friday Night Lights" author and Pulitzer Prize winner Buzz Bissinger, portrayed Foles as being too soft with too little ego to be a great quarterback. Said Foles: "I've always believed that you need to be who you are. If you're a guy who loves to go out and be everything and do that and you can be a great player and a great leader, well that's awesome. But if I were to go out and do all that stuff, that's out of the norm. I'm a laid-back Texas boy who loves being with his family, and that's what I stick to. I love the game of football, love getting better. I show my teammates who I am in the locker room and then I don't change when I go out on the field. I'm the same guy wherever they see me."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, has shown no signs of problems from the injury in the first two days of training camp. Maclin is expected to be one of the Eagles' starting wide receivers.
--WR Arrelious Benn, who sat out all of last season with an ACL injury, is facing an uphill battle to make the Eagles' roster. But his knee appears healthy.
--T Allen Barbre has been taking all of the first-team snaps at right tackle. The plan is for Barbe, who has just seven career starts in six NFL seasons, to fill in for Lane Johnson the first four games while Johnson serves his PED suspension.
--T Lane Johnson, who started all 16 games as a rookie, will miss the first four games after being suspended for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He is participating in training camp, but is taking snaps with the second team.
--QB Mark Sanchez appears to have a slight edge over Matt Barkley for the backup quarterback job behind Nick Foles.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--LB Phillip Hunt (not tendered as RFA) spent last season on injured reserve and probably won't be re-signed.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--WR Jordan Matthews (2/42): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Josh Huff (3/86): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Jaylen Watkins (4/101): terms unknown
--DE Taylor Hart (5/141): terms unknown
--S Ed Reynolds (5/162): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--NT Beau Allen (7/224): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Nate Allen: UFA; terms unknown.
--WR Arrelious Benn: FA (had been released by Eagles; terms unknown.
--WR Riley Cooper: Potential UFA; $22.5M/5 yrs, $4M SB/$8M guaranteed.
--P Donnie Jones: UFA; $5.5M/3 yrs, $1M guaranteed.
--WR Jeremy Maclin: Potential UFA; $5.5M/1 yr, $3.5M guaranteed.
--DE Cedric Thornton: Potential ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OLB Bryan Braman: Not tendered as RFA by Texans; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Nolan Carroll: UFA Dolphins; $5.2M/2 yrs.
--T Andrew Gardner: UFA Texans; terms unknown.
--S Malcolm Jenkins: UFA Saints; $15.5M/3 yrs, $8.5M guaranteed.
--S Chris Maragos: UFA Seahawks; terms unknown.
--QB Mark Sanchez: FA Jets; $2.25M/1 yr, $750,000 SB.
--RB Darren Sproles (trade Saints).
--S Colt Anderson: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--WR Jason Avant (released).
--RB Bryce Brown (traded Bills).
--S Patrick Chung (released).
--S Kurt Coleman: UFA Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown..
--DE Clifton Geathers: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.
--WR DeSean Jackson (released).
--QB Michael Vick: UFA Jets; $4M guaranteed/1 yr, $2M SB.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Lane Johnson
- Allen Barbre
- Evan Mathis
- Philadelphia Eagles