Eagles Preparing For Life Without Lane
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Doug Pederson is as straightforward as they come and the Eagles' first-year coach wasn't about to hide from the potential 10-game PED suspension of his star right tackle Lane Johnson.
"It would be smart on my part to have a Plan B if that's the case," Pederson said after his team's 17-9 preseason win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
The report of the potential penalty, which would be Johnson's second violation of the NFL's PED policy, surfaced last Tuesday through a local radio personality and was quickly confirmed by others, including NFL Media.
The stickiness comes from where Johnson is in the process.
Through a surrogate, FOX's Jay Glazer, Johnson claims he's not been suspended and is still waiting for the results of the B sample from his test, a clear indication that the A sample came up dirty for what Johnson claims was a peptide.
If the B sample confirms the results from the first sample then Johnson would be made aware of his upcoming suspension and would then have the right to appeal, which can be a lengthy process.
Pederson, though, isn't about to wait around and plans on being proactive.
"I'll visit with [offensive line coach Jeff] Stoutland this week, and we'll evaluate where we need to go from here, the coach said. "If that's the case, if it's upheld, then we've gotta be prepared to make some moves. Until it happens, we go full-steam. But the same time, we also know we've got to be smart about it to have people ready to go if it is upheld."
Like all the offensive starters Johnson played sparingly in the Eagles' win over the Buccaneers and did not speak to the media after the contest.
Johnson originally denied the allegations before admitting to Glazer, who he has trained with in the past, he'd taken what he claims was an approved amino acid but tested positive for the peptide. Johnson also claimed he would be fighting the ruling and also targeting the company that manufactured the supplement.
It's a tough spot for Pederson and the Eagles because Johnson is one of their best players and just signed a massive contract extension in the offseason, which made him the highest-paid right tackle in football.
"I really don't know (what's going to happen)," the coach said. "It's out of our hands. It's out of my hands."
Pederson also confirmed he hasn't addressed the controversy directly with Johnson, although he explained his method.
"No, I haven't, to be quite honest," Pederson said when asked about talking with Johnson about the issue. "These guys are professionals. I talk to the team. When and if I talk to these guys individually, that's obviously a private matter. At the same time, they are grown men. I've got to treat them like grown men. If something like this happens, it is unfortunate, and sometimes you learn the hard way. We'll cross that bridge when the time comes."
Crossing the bridge means finding a stop-gap in-house, whether it be current second-team right tackle Dennis Kelly or perhaps veterans Matt Tobin or Andrew Gardner. Even rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai and starting left guard Allen Barbre, who has experience playing tackle are in the hopper.
"We've got the bodies," Pederson said. "We've got the guys that can definitely fill that role."
Meanwhile, if Johnson is indeed suspended, he will then be one strike away from a two-year ban.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen