Lane Johnson plans for 4-week absence

PHILADELPHIA -- The plan for Lane Johnson is taking shape.

The Philadelphia Eagles right tackle will play most, perhaps all, of Thursday night’s preseason finale against the New York Jets. That will be his last football for a month. During his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, Johnson will work out at a gym in Cherry Hill, N.J., and try to keep up with his teammates after hours.

Todd [Herremans, the right guard] was thinking about me coming over to his house, I guess on Mondays, and see what’s going on from a practice standpoint,” Johnson said Saturday. “I think I’m still allowed to have my iPad, so I can still watch practice [video] and everything.”

The Eagles’ starters are already beginning to prepare for Jacksonville, the first opponent of the regular season. They will not play Thursday. Their preseason is over, and the regular season has begun. Johnson, who started all 17 games last year, knows his regular season won’t begin until Week 5. So Thursday night’s game is more than a mere chore.

“This game will be big,” Johnson said. “I’ll try to play hard this last game, try to execute well. That’s my biggest thing heading into this week.”

Johnson said it will be “hard to watch” the first four regular-season games. He is not allowed at the Eagles’ facility, and is not allowed contact with the coaching staff. But there’s no rule against him socializing with his friends, who also happen to be offensive linemen.

Herremans helped Johnson arrange the gym in Cherry Hill. And the veteran guard will also be working to help Johnson ease his way back into the lineup when he’s reinstated.

“I’m trying to make the most of it,” Johnson said, “trying to come back strong. The first couple games are going to be hard. The first two games will be the toughest. I’m trying to stay on top of communication, trying to be better than I was last year coming in.”

Head coach Chip Kelly said he hasn’t spent a lot of time planning for Johnson’s return. There are plenty of other, more pressing things on his mind. Allen Barbre will start at right tackle in Johnson’s place. By Week 5, Kelly has no idea who will be available to him.

“We haven’t discussed that,” Kelly said. “That’s long-term, down the road. I know Lane will be gone after the Jets game. I mean, Allen could be gone, too. It’s a waste of time for us to be having this conversation. All of a sudden, we spend three hours in a meeting talking about what’s the scenario and all of a sudden, our right tackle is Matt Tobin, because Allen got hurt. Hopefully, we can keep all five of those guys healthy up front.”

Johnson will be eligible to return for the Oct. 5 game against St. Louis.

“Thank God it’s only four weeks,” Johnson said. “It could be the whole season.”