So far, so good, Shawn Andrews said, after wrapping up his first practice Saturday since rejoining the Eagles last week.
Andrews, a two-time Pro Bowl guard who has said he missed the first 17 days of training camp while dealing with depression, said he is "very confident" that he will be able to stay with the team and contribute while being treated.
"It feels great" to be back, said Andrews, who seemed to have added a spiky quality to the "Fro-hawk" hairstyle he modeled in spring minicamps, along with a mustache and close-shaved goatee. "I've gone through a lot of things, and I have the support of my teammates. It feels good to be back on the field, just around the guys ... I'm back at home ... It's definitely been a big weight lifted off me."
Andrews said he is "very confident" now of his teammates' support, though some of them seemed frustrated and even skeptical during his absence. Andrews acknowledged he helped create that frustration and skepticism, with text messages and phone conversations in which he might have tried to pretend there were other reasons for his absence, before he sought treatment and before he first revealed, in an Aug. 4 Daily News interview, that he was suffering from depression. Eagles coach Andy Reid called Andrews' absence "unexcused," when he first failed to show at Lehigh, on July 24. The next week-and-a-half were filled with conjecture and innuendo. Reid was obviously upset that Andrews wouldn't come in and seek help through the team.
"I was kind of pessimistic how my teammates would receive me," Andrews acknowledged Saturday. "... There were a lot of rumors. I admitted to my teammates I created a lot of those rumors. At the time, Coach Reid didn't know (the truth). People were saying (it was really about his) contract, didn't want to play football anymore, and I admit that I created those rumors, just out of a lot of frustration, and didn't care what people thought."
Andrews reiterated that he did not blame teammates if they were skeptical initially.
"They really didn't know. You have a guy who's quick-tempered, who's to the point where, I really didn't care anymore. That's not the real me; I just didn't realize what I was going through. A few weeks ago was the first time I've ever opened up to anybody about anything. That was part of the reason" he was wary of their response.
"Coach Reid, after he realized that Shawn Andrews did have a serious problem, he was very positive about the situation. He's a funny guy -- he helps you laugh, tries to make the situation better."
Andrews, who apparently practiced Saturday at his usual starting right guard spot, and said he weighed in at a svelte 331 pounds, said he addressed his teammates when he returned, telling them: "It wasn't that I was trying to get out of work."
He repeated what he has said recently about the situation starting to improve late last month when he opened up to a mentor, whom he again declined to name. The mentor encouraged him to see a psychiatrist in Little Rock, Ark., where Andrews lives, and he has said he began taking medication.
Andrews declined to comment on whether the Eagles actually fined him the $15,000 a day he believed he was being fined while he was away from the team.
Andrews, 25, said he was undecided about attending today's Eagles Carnival, which would be his first interaction with fans since he went public with his troubles.
"I'm still kind of debating in my mind," he said. "I know there are great fans, but there are also people -- and I will say, I read message boards and got caught up in that whole thing, and that even put more stress on me, just worrying about what people thought about me. People say a lot of times 'Well, I don't care what people say about me.' Me, personally, I don't care about how people perceive me when they look at my hair, but I like for people to think great things about Shawn Andrews. But you can't please the world."
Here is the complete transcript of Andrews' remarks:
On how it feels to be back on the field practicing:
“It feels great. I’ve gone through a lot of things and I have the support of my teammates. It feels good to be back out on the field; around the guys.”
On whether he’s confident that he has the support of his teammates:
“I’m very confident. If there’s anybody that doubts me, nobody shows it. There’s nothing but support here. That’s the good thing about the organization; they do a great job of getting good character guys here. I feel back at home.”
On what the last week has been like:
“The last week, it’s been pretty tough. I was kind of pessimistic as to how my teammates would receive me back. It’s been tough. I’m still going through a lot, but I’m just trying to make it. It’s been a big step for me.”
On what the conversation with head coach Andy Reid was like when he first admitted he was suffering from depression:
“I don’t want to go too far in depth, but there were a lot of rumors. Like I said, I admitted to my teammates that I created a lot of those rumors. At the time, Coach Reid didn’t know. There were people saying ‘contract,’ ‘didn’t want to play anymore,’ and I admit that I created those rumors out of a lot of frustration and I didn’t care what people thought.”
On whether he was pessimistic about how he would be received because of the rumors:
“Yeah, because they really didn’t know. You have a guy who’s quick tempered who is now to the point where he really didn’t care anymore. That wasn’t the real me, I just didn’t realize what I was going through. A few weeks ago was the first time I ever opened up to anybody; about anything. That was part of the reason.”
On whether opening up to Andy Reid made him feel more comfortable:
“It did make me feel comfortable. Coach Reid, after he realized that Shawn Andrews did have a serious problem, he was very positive about the situation. He’s a funny guy. I mean, he helps you laugh and tries to make the situation better, but ultimately, he really showed that he cared and that meant a lot to me.”
On whether he was aware that S Brian Dawkins has said that he suffered through similar problems:
“I did hear about that. I think it was his rookie year and his second year, going through basically what I’m going through.”
On whether he’s worried about how this will affect him on the field:
“Being that I’m getting help now and I’m opening up more, it’s definitely been a big weight lifted off of me. I can stay prayed up about the situation and just know the difference of when I walk onto the field and try to compose myself because I’ve always felt alone. After opening up to a couple people, I definitely feel like I better know how to handle the situation.”
On whether he wants to play against the Patriots in Friday’s preseason game:
“I would love to play against the Patriots. I mean, it feels good to be back and around my teammates. You don’t get that camaraderie in too many other places.”
On where he is physically right now:
“I’ve been running very hard and have used some of my emotions and aggressions in my workouts. This morning I weighed in at 331 [pounds], and I’m feeling pretty strong. That’s lighter than what I’m going to play at on game day. I just want to keep reassuring myself that I have the means and the mindset to keep the weight off.”
On whether it’s harder to stay in this profession having gone public with his situation:
“I guess now that I’ve spoken about my issues or my clinical depression if you will, I think it really lifted a weight off of me because I received so many letters and emails, good and bad. But I just pay attention to the good ones and the people that I inspire that let me know that.”
On whether he has been fined by the team:
“I can’t really comment on that right now.”
On when he first opened up to someone about what he was feeling:
“It was actually –it wasn’t the day until my appointment to see my doctor back in Arkansas because all of the people that were close to me, my mentor who I’ve known for nine years who I’ve never opened up to, he basically came to my house; people coming to my house unannounced to get me out and to talk and to see what’s going on because I was in my room talking to people, just thinking. They were very concerned, and I was on the edge. Things weren’t going well, so I felt like I must open up before it’s too late.”
On who the person was that he opened up to:
“I’d rather not say.”
On what he means by “being on the edge”:
“I won’t say that I contemplated suicide, but I had some very, I guess in my mind, to me, unrealistic thoughts about a lot of things. I was really lost and just really felt like there was no outlet. I know there’s my mom there, but I want the rest of her life to be worry-free so I try and keep everything from her. I just felt alone, you know?”
On what his message is for people out there who see a successful athlete going through something like this:
“I’ve received a lot of phone calls from public figures and people who have gone through what I’m going through. I’ve also learned that, among African American men, and really men period, we just hold things in. Whether it’s a football player or a man, you are still like, ‘I’m a man, nothing bothers me.’ But, if you internalize it, it has to come out somewhere. People question my silliness, but I’m a fun-loving guy. Being around people, I don’t care what creed you are, it just ignites my silliness. You’ll never know if I’m hurting on the inside. I found out.”
On whether he expects to be at the Eagles Carnival tomorrow and if he is worried about what fans will say to him:
“I’ve actually thought about that. I’m still kind of debating in my mind. I know they are great fans, but there are also people—I will say for a minute that I read message boards and got caught up in that whole thing. That even put more stress on me, just worrying about what people thought about me. People say a lot of times, ‘I don’t care what people think about me.’ Me, personally, I don’t care how people perceive me when they look at my hair, but I like people to think great things about Shawn Andrews, but you can’t please the world.”
On whether he is confident that everything is going to work out for him:
“I am very confident that things will work out. I’m not a religious man; I’m spiritual. I think a lot of it has to do with God having a calling on my life. Sometimes it takes bad things to wake you up and realize that God wants you to be who he wants you to be.”
On what his emotions were like during practice:
“There were a lot of things going through my mind. First and foremost, it was just good to get back with my fellow offensive linemen. The kind of fun that we have, I really missed it and just being in the huddle with Donovan. He is a very charismatic guy and it kind of helps, for that moment, to take away the issues in your mind. It was just refreshing; a beautiful day.”
On whether it felt like old times being back in there with his fellow offensive linemen:
“It was old times. I wasn’t in there anticipating it, I was just out there and wherever they got me to, that’s kind of how it went.”
On whether playing football was therapeutic for him:
“In a sense, it was. Before I realized what I was going through internally, football wasn’t even a point in my life where I wanted to do it anymore. I just wanted to say, ‘The heck with it.’”
On whether he was able to address his teammates:
“Coach Reid allowed me some time, after one of the team meetings, to address my teammates. I just felt like it was something that I needed to-slash-had to do, because of the way that I just disappeared. Like I said, the things I said that conveyed to them that I didn’t want to be here anymore, or whatever thoughts were in their minds, I just wanted to let them know that it wasn’t that I was trying to get out of work. I’m no stranger to hard work. I just wanted them to know that I hope they still respect me. If they don’t, I’m going to do everything possible to gain the respect back.”
On when it was that he addressed the team:
“That was in training camp, when I got back last week.”