The heightened stakes of the playoffs can produce a lot of stress. Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks has waged a well-publicized struggle with anxiety, something he is proud to have controlled effectively this season.
Brooks said Thursday that as the Super Bowl nears, he doesn’t worry about being crippled by the problem that cost him two games last season.
“You’re not going to relapse, but you’re going to have situations where you’re feeling it come on,” Brooks said. “Really, how you handle that in that split second is going to tell you if you’ve really got a grasp on it or if you’re just kinda holding it down for a little bit.
“I have situations where I feel anxiety come in, but I know what to do, and I know what it is, so I just don’t let it affect me the way it did last year.”
Brooks said he still throws up before almost every game.
“Last week was probably the first time in a long time where I was like, ‘This is what it’s like to play in the NFC championship; it’s the biggest game I’ve ever played in my career.’ Usually, I wake up on game day, and I throw up. I didn’t, so I was wondering: ‘Am I going to throw up today?’ Sure enough, right before I went out [for the opening kickoff], I threw everything I had in my stomach up,” Brooks said. “That’s really what I needed, to be honest.”
Running back and returner Kenjon Barner did not practice Thursday because of illness, the Eagles said. They listed running back Jay Ajayi as limited, with an ankle problem. Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) was a full participant and presumably will be OK to play in the Super Bowl after missing the NFC championship game.
How do you know?
Doug Pederson was asked when he sensed this Eagles team had bonded the way teams that contend for championships need to bond.
“You really don’t know. You sort of have a gut feeling when you come through OTAs and you get into training camp,” Pederson said. “You kind of have that like, ‘Oh, man, this could be a special team, this could be a special year.’ … I say that, then I go, ‘OK, well then a lot of things have to happen for you, like you’ve got to stay away from the injury bug.’ Well, we didn’t. We’ve lost some talented guys, some starters, some role guys, specific guys.
“But for me, it was probably through some of that adversity early in the year, middle of the season, that we kind of kept things together, and we were figuring out how to win a game or two or three, and we kind of got on a little bit of a roll. At about that time, you kind of knew that, all right, this is a pretty special team, and the sky’s the limit with these guys.”