Eagles' Johnson coaches during cancer treatment

May 2, 2009 3:23:58 PM PDT
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has continued to perform his duties while undergoing treatment for skin cancer and says he's feeling "good" and enjoying his work. Johnson is using a cart to traverse the fields while the Eagles hold their first minicamp of the offseason. Following practice Saturday morning, he addressed the media for the first time since being diagnosed with a recurrence of melanoma, which has formed a tumor in his spine.

"I feel good. I appreciate all the concern about my injury. I really do," said Johnson, who is walking with a cane. "I'm still going through treatment. The biggest thing I'm trying to get now is just the pain in my back. I've got some broken bones in the lower part, so it allows me not to be on my feet quite as much.

Everything else, I feel fine. I just keep working at it."

Johnson, who turns 68 on May 26, first was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. The team disclosed the recurrence in January, nearly two weeks after it lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship.

Because of the pain in his lower back, Johnson coached that game and the victory over the New York Giants in the division playoffs a week earlier from the press box.

But Johnson is back on the field for this camp - as he has been for each of the previous 10 years, since being hired by coach Andy Reid.

"It's great. It's a part of my life, and it keeps me going," Johnson said. "I don't feel any different coaching. I'm coaching the same way."

Johnson is coaching a unit that lost only one starter - albeit a big one - from last season. Safety Brian Dawkins, who signed with the Denver Broncos, is the only starter who isn't returning on a defense that finished last season third in the league in yards allowed.

"The biggest thing is that these guys, the young guys, know the system," Johnson said. "The veterans know the system, which makes it nice, but I have not reduced my work schedule. Like I said, I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy doing this."

Whether he'll be able to return to the field during the season is uncertain.

"It's too early to tell," he said. "I'm taking this one day at a time or one camp at a time. I'll just keep working at it, and as long as I can hold my work schedule I'll feel fine, and we'll just see how it goes."

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