For the sake of this discussion, let's remove all the emotion and smokescreen and denials and apologies from what is almost certainly about to happen with Eagles tackle Lane Johnson and simply pretend instead that he tore a muscle at practice the other day and will miss 10 weeks of the regular season. Any muscle. Pick one.
If you want to say he tore the muscle doing something really, really stupid and he was a rockhead to do so, that's your prerogative. The point is the muscle is torn, and he needs surgery, and it's going to take until Nov. 28, when the Eagles host a Monday night game against the Packers, for the rehabilitation to be completed.
Johnson tore the same muscle once before and missed four games in 2014, and maybe he should have been a little more careful with it. Maybe he should have sought the advice exclusively of the team trainers and conditioning staff about the muscle. Maybe a lot of things, but too late now.
So, again, for the sake of this discussion, let's say Lane Johnson will miss 10 games of the regular season. (We'll get into the presumption of innocence portion of our show a little later. Hang on for it.) As you are aware, this is not good news for the Philadelphia Eagles. The offensive line had a reasonable chance to be acceptable this season, but that was only if everything went right.
Even before Johnson's situation arose, everything was going far from right. Left tackle Jason Peters is out with an injury, as is guard Brandon Brooks. The injuries to those starters are considered relatively minor, and there is a month until the regular season, but injuries tend to beget injuries.
With those two out, the line has been a mix-and-match affair with a grab bag of backups that includes Stefen Wisniewski and the always riotous law firm of Tobin, Kelly, and Gardner. If you also subtract Johnson, the fun really begins, unless you happen to be Sam Bradford. But that is the reality, and the Eagles better start dealing with it right now.
Which leads us to our final theoretical about Lane Johnson and his torn muscle. It is that Johnson can still play while the surgery is being scheduled. Can't hurt the muscle any more than it is, and there is no other risk, aside from the usual.
So, what should the Eagles do Thursday night in the first exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Bucs? Should they go ahead and play Johnson, or should they accept how things are going to be and play the other guys?
If everything is as it appears - both in the torn muscle scenario and in the other one, the one with the emotion and smokescreen and denials, etc. - then Johnson shouldn't get a snap. The Eagles have a game on Sept. 11 that counts, and he won't be in that one.
All right. Back to the real world and the mess that apparently faces Johnson and the Eagles. It has been reported from multiple sources that he tested positive for a banned substance often used to enhance the effectiveness of other banned substances. Also according to the reports, Johnson says he thought the supplement he was taking did not contain banned substances.
While we wait for the B sample to confirm the A sample (it always does), here's how this will work. Johnson will get suspended as soon as the positive is confirmed. He will appeal the suspension. He will lose.
This is how these things are judged: Was it in your body? If yes, you're guilty.
Applying any other standard requires the ability to read minds. Of course, the guy says he didn't mean to do it, and it's all a big mistake. Of course, he says it was this supplement that he took and not something else. And who knows? Maybe this time the guy is telling the truth. Doesn't matter. It wasn't supposed to be there, and it was there.
We can wait for all of this to play out. It could take a week or two. And, as far as the presumption of innocence, we can acknowledge the small chance the lab screwed up the A sample or that something else that never happens has happened. But experience tells us this is how it will play out, and Lane Johnson is gone until four days after Thanksgiving.
The Eagles haven't said anything about this situation yet. Interpreting the organization's silence, or the lack of a statement of support and belief in Johnson, would also require mind reading, so we'll leave that where it is. Everyone could be too busy looking for tackles.
Where a statement might be made is Thursday night. Things have changed, and the team better change in response as quickly as possible. If you've studied the offensive linemen who will apparently be available on Sept. 11, they need as many reps as they can get.