By Al Thompson
If Eagles standout offensive tackle Lane Johnson wrote a bombastic column for the players blog website theplayerstribune.com to divert people away from talking about his 10-game suspension last year for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, it backfired.
If he wrote it to stir the pot and get Eagles fans and his teammates inspired to travel to Washington and leave the nation’s capital with a win over the Redskins in the season opener Sept. 10, then it was a brilliant move.
We will know if it worked Sunday night.
On Aug. 23, the popular player-only site published a column by Johnson where he talks about how tough fans can be in Philadelphia and that he found it “refreshing.”
He talked about his mistakes and how he wanted to make good on missing a total of 14 games over four seasons due to suspension for testing positive for PEDs. In his quest to relate that enthusiasm to Eagles Nation, he may have started a firestorm that will no doubt intensify as the opener approaches.
In the column Johnson writes:
“Let me tell you what’s going to happen in a couple of weeks: This team is going to go down to D.C. and whup some a___ against the Redskins. We’re going to surprise some people.”
Johnson wasn’t done. The 6-foot-6, 317 pounder went on to say the Washington game is just the start.
“That’s where the momentum is going to begin,” he said, “And then the hype train is just going to get bigger as the league realizes that the Eagles are back. The NFC East is the toughest division in all of football and it’s going to get even tougher this season because nobody is going to want to face us. I’m not saying this just to blow smoke, I’m telling you guys this is how it’s going to go down.”
Well it didn’t take long for those words to find their way into the Redskins locker room. Washington linebacker Zach Brown, who joined the Redskins this offseason, took to Twitter to let Johnson know what he thought about his prediction.
“They are some new boys in town and we don’t need PEDs to win…but just for u, 53 will be seeing you.”
Brown, who obviously wears No. 53, did delete the Tweet, but explained himself to a local reporter, The Washington Post’s Scott Allen.
“Just to hear somebody say that about our organization is insulting,” Brown said. “So for me, I was like, man, let me just say something back to him real quick to let him know this is a new atmosphere, a new team, a new drive. Everybody here is playing to the last second no matter what it is. We have one goal in mind — to win every game.”
Brown is a sixth-year linebacker who was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2012.
After the Birds defeated the Miami Dolphins 38–31 at the Linc, Johnson was asked if he’d seen Brown’s quotes.
“Not really, but it’s all in good fun,” Johnson said. “I’m a competitive person. We’re gonna go there to play and I hope they are ready for us to come down there. It’s gonna be a good game.”
As more follow up questions were asked, Johnson seemed to double down on his prediction for the opener at FedEX Field.
“Yeah, I mean that’s the mentality here,” Johnson said. “Who wants to be soft with a division opponent? Has that ever been that mentality here? No. Nobody likes the Cowboys, nobody likes the Redskins, nobody likes the Giants, so I really don’t give a damn (what their fans or Brown says).”
Johnson went on to say he hopes the war on words helps the Eagles break a five-game losing streak to Washington.
“If a few words can get this team riled up, it’s not hurting anybody,” Johnson said. “All it is is words so … take it out on me, I don’t care. If it makes other people play better, hey I’m down for it.”
Johnson was asked about if he plays badly, people will say it was because he was shooting off his mouth. Again, the left tackle was unfazed.
“That’s fine,” Johnson said. “As long as we come out with a win, I’m fine,”
Johnson was asked if he was bucking the tradition of players always being politically correct, toting a party line.
“I try to be as honest as possible,” Johnson said, “You know how it is in this world, negativity sells. That’s what gets you clicks, that’s what gets people interested in stuff, so that’s how the game goes.”
At the end of his column, Johnson called on Eagles Nation to stand up … and do their thing.
“So Philly, here’s what we’re gonna need from you: Fly with us and just be you. Come out to the games, drink some beers and raise some hell. Make this a place where our team loves to play and everybody else hates — especially Cowboys fans.
“We’ll take care of the rest.
“Man, is it Sept. 10 yet?”
Johnson is doing his part to make sure everyone is paying attention.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii