PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has taken an indefinite leave of absence while he continues treatment for a cancerous tumor on his spine.
"Jim and I agreed that he needs to concentrate all of his efforts on his recovery," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday. "His health is number one."
Johnson, 67, complained of back pain in early January. He coached from the press box in a playoff win over the New York Giants and in the Eagles' loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC championship. An MRI after the playoff win against the Giants on Jan. 11 alerted doctors that something might be wrong.
Johnson was treated for melanoma in 2001. Following the Arizona loss, the team announced the cancer had returned.
"He's struggling," Reid said Monday. "But he's a tough guy and a true battler."
Johnson had recovered sufficiently to coach during the team's first post-draft minicamp earlier this month.
But he coached from a motorized scooter during practices and said wasn't sure if he could return to the field for the upcoming season.
"It's too early to tell," Johnson said May 2. "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."
Reid said he hopes Johnson, who has spent the last 10 years as the Eagles' defensive coordinator, is able to return to the team soon.
"I hope everyone will keep him in their thoughts and prayers during this period of time," Reid said.
Johnson is known for his aggressive, attacking style and has played a significant role in the team's success over the last decade. Last season, Philadelphia finished third in total defense and fourth in points allowed as the Eagles advanced to the NFC title game for the fifth time in the last 10 seasons.
Secondary coach Sean McDermott will run the defense in Johnson's absence.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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