Obviously, it wasn't good news Monday that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will take a leave of absence for a second round of chemotherapy to treat metastasized melanoma. Oncologists contacted by The Daily News indicated that Johnson's cancer -- which the team has acknowledged is present outside the site of the tumor on his spine -- likely is starting to fully manifest itself in other areas. One oncologist said melanoma is particularly difficult to treat with chemotherapy.
The oncologists the Daily News spoke to, who are not involved in treating Johnson, said that in general, a melanoma patient's response to chemotherapy declines with each round of treatment. The Eagles, who confirmed an ESPN.com report by Sal Paolantonio about the leave, did not set a timetable for Johnson's return.
Johnson coached the spring's first OTA,or minicamp, from a motorized wheelchair. He will not participate in the rookie OTA coming up Wednesday and Thursday, the team said. Secondary coach Sean McDermott, widely presumed to be Johnson's successor someday, will run the defense in Johnson's absence.
"Jim and I agreed that he needs to concentrate all of his efforts on his recovery,” coach Andy Reid said in a statement. “His health is number one. He’s struggling, but he’s a tough guy and a true battler. I hope everyone will keep him in their thoughts and prayers during this period of time. We hope to have him back with the team as soon as possible.”
Johnson's diagnosis was made public the week of the Super Bowl, about three and a half months ago. At that time, oncologists said his situation seemed dire, but Johnson returned to his duties after taking radiation and chemotherapy.
On May 2, Johnson, who turns 68 May 26, met with reporters for the first time since his diagnosis, which came in January, just before the NFC Championship Game.
" I feel good," Johnson said then. "I appreciate all the concern about my injury, I really do, from the fans and you guys. I feel good. I’m still going through treatment. The biggest thing I’m trying to get now is just the pain out of my back. I’ve got some broken bones in the lower part so that doesn’t allow me to be on my feet quite as much but everything else, I feel fine. [I’ll] just keep working at it.”
Asked how the problem has affected him, Johnson said: “It’s something you have to deal with every day and like I said, I’m still going through treatment hoping you can get it done. Sure it affects your life. You think about it every day, no question, as far as the pain a little bit here and there. But the thing about when I come here to work is that it feels good. It’s not going to be like this all the time, hopefully we’ll get that injury back so I’m walking back on the field."
To read our earlier post on Lito Sheppard, Tony Kornheiser and Jon Gruden, click here.