Eagles' Andrews missing playoff run

January 2, 2009 7:37:11 AM PST
Shawn Andrews struts through the Eagles locker room sounding like an "American Idol" wannabe, singing the chorus of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)."

Some of his teammates smile, others barely glance his way. They're well used to Andrews showing off his jovial side and giving his vocal cords a pop chart workout.

"I know y'all want me to keep going," Andrews says as he plops his 6-4 frame into a chair.

Andrews sings a different tune when it comes to his dreadful season. The two-time Pro Bowl guard can't block the disheartenment that comes from missing all but two games with a bad back and training camp with depression. With the Eagles in the playoffs, Andrews knows he likely won't get a shot to contribute.

His recovery from a herniated disc, like his battle with depression, is still day-to-day.

"It probably has been one of the tougher years of my life," Andrews said. "I kind of had to define and find who I was. Everybody else kind of found out who I somewhat was. It's been a rough year, man, but it's been a great year."

The upside of 2008 for Andrews was the birth of his son, JaShawn, in March. Spending time with his boy helps eases some of the sting of the dreary days of rehab that come with no guarantee of playing in the postseason. His son has given Andrews some added strength to deal with the anxiety that comes with depression.

"I have my days. I can't say I'm over it," Andrews said. "Boy, I have my days. I just have to stay grounded and be in touch with people that are in my tight circle."

The circle doesn't necessarily bend to include his Eagles teammates. While some, like Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, offered immediate support, others weren't thrilled that Andrews refused to say why he wasn't at training camp.

"Some of the guys are supportive," he said. "Everybody has their own lives, so I don't expect anyone to baby-sit me."

Andrews' no-show turned into a big guessing game when days passed with no reason for his absence. There was speculation from fans and media that Andrews, Philadelphia's first-round pick in 2004, wanted a new contract or was overweight. His personal life and sexual orientation was dissected, all while he was home trying to find a way to overcome his embarrassment and admit that he was depressed.

"Being that it was my first time I've gone through anything like that, I didn't know how to handle it," Andrews said. "If I could do it all over again, you bet your sweet bippy I'd tell my teammates what's going on."

His admission still makes him uncomfortable. Andrews taps on a tape recorder and asks, "Is this thing on?" and again breaks into song ("What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!") when asked about his mental health. Andrews, sporting an orange mohawk, doesn't want to say if he's still on medication and indicates he's not seeing a professional to help deal with depression.

Andrews says he's become a regular churchgoer and calmed down from a "debacle" on the way to work this week by stopping to think about what Jesus would do.

"I'm starting to find out who I am," Andrews said. "I'm being the person that God wants me to be. Beforehand, I was trying to be somebody I thought people like and wanted me to be. Now, I'm living for God and myself and my family."

A shot at playing in the Super Bowl wouldn't be bad, either.

Eagles coach Andy Reid called Andrews's improvement "phenomenal" and didn't rule out a return if they advanced deep into the postseason.

"We need a lineman, he's a pretty good one," Reid said. "If he gets clearance to play and feels like he can, I want to keep that door open."

The 26-year-old Andrews joked his body felt "like a noodle right now," and he wasn't sure how much he could help even if he was cleared.

"Yeah, I think I'm a pretty all right player. I think I can contribute, but if I'm not in shape, then what good am I?" he said.

Max Jean-Gilles took over at right guard until a broken ankle ended his season. Nick Cole, who signed as a rookie free agent in 2006, has started the last five games and will be at his spot on Sunday.

Andrews has tried to stay out of their way, leaving tips and advice to position coach Juan Castillo. But Andrews also would like to try and reach out in a different way: helping other NFL players fighting with the taboo topic of depression.

He said he's been in contact with players outside the Eagles and wants to help if he can.

"I don't know what their reason for reaching out was, maybe for support or maybe to let me know they're going through something similar," he said. "I'd love to help people. It's fun to help people any way I can. I'm very selfless and have a great deal of humility."