BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – Chris Johnson is treading in unchartered waters right now with his knee injury, and being on the injured reserve/designated to return list.
Johnson’s been banged up in his eight years in the NFL (which NFL athlete hasn’t been?), but he’s never had an injury quite like this that’s put him out for this long a period of time, and it’s quite unsettling for him.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Johnson said. “When it first happened, it was a situation where it was something hard to deal with, but you know, after a month goes by, you just know it’s life, and it is what it is. (I’m) just thankful that I got a chance to come back and play a game this year.”
With it being a traumatic time for Johnson with the injury, he didn’t quite know how to deal with it, and deal with the fact that he couldn’t return to practice for at least six weeks and play in eight.
That’s when Johnson’s teammates became a bigger blessing to him, because he leaned on them quite a bit for support, and they’ve been an invaluable tool for him during these tough times.
“I lean on them a lot,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, you’re at the house, and you don’t feel like coming in, but being able to come in here, and see my teammates, and talk to them (has really helped). I think the second or third week after it happened, we took a trip to (Las) Vegas; me and the (wide) receivers. We went to the UFC fight, so (I) tried to stay in tune with them. I’ve been outside and watched practice twice since it happened. That’s the hardest part, being out there, and being at the games, and watching the games, and wanting to play, but everything happens for a reason, and the only thing I can do is just be ready when that time comes.”
The game Johnson talked about, and the time he referred to, would be Super Bowl 50 on February 7, if the Cardinals make it that far. That would be the first game Johnson would be eligible to play with the team after coming off the IRD list. The team’s doing their part to make sure they’ll represent the NFC in that game; it’s just a matter of going out and executing next weekend in the NFC Divisional Playoff, and in the NFC Championship Game the following Sunday.
Johnson says he’s the biggest cheerleader for his guys, and he’s got the utmost confidence in what his brothers will be able to do to ensure he gets to suit up in Santa Clara, Calif., in early February.
Great news: Johnson is coming along so well, that he says he’ll be back with the team next week, and he can’t wait.
“It feels good,” Johnson said. “I’ve been running (for) the last two weeks. I wouldn’t say if we had to play a game tomorrow that I’d be ready to play, but I know when it’s time for me to play, I’ll be ready.”
The progression in what Johnson’s been able to do with the trainers is pretty astounding with how quickly said progression has moved. Last week, Johnson said they strictly worked on him running straight ahead. This week, he says the trainers are pushing him a bit more, and they’re seeing how his lateral movements are, and if he’s got them back in full.
“We did more cutting, more lateral drills, some side-to-side stuff and all that,” Johnson said. “Since we did a lot of the cutting, and lateral stuff yesterday (Wednesday), they held me down today, and I did a lot of stuff in the weight room, squats and all that stuff, then we’ll come back tomorrow (Friday) and do some more running.”
Johnson’s feeling it right now, even though he’s less than 100-percent. He says nobody on the team’s at 100 right now, so he’s not the only one. That’s just the nature of playing a 16-week regular season, and a soon-to-be grueling playoff gauntlet.
Him being able to see the sun slowly peeking over the horizon has Johnson wanting to work overtime to get back on the active roster with David Johnson, Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams, and get back to wrecking shop.
“We got the weekend off, but I’ll probably still come up here, and do rehab with the trainers probably on Saturday, take Sunday off, and then come back Monday,” Johnson said. “I know we got Monday off, but (do) some more rehabbing, (and) treatment on Monday, and just be ready for practice on Tuesday.”
Standing on the sidelines for the past five weeks has been less than an optimal setting for Johnson, but at least he’s been able to see his last name’s namesake – David Johnson – go on a rampage. Johnson played so well in the last month and some change, that he was named “NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month.” Johnson led all NFL players with 658 yards from scrimmage, and he was the only player in the league with 400+ rushing yards (442), and 200+ receiving yards (216) in that time span.
Chris Johnson is undoubtedly proud of what David Johnson’s been able to do in his absence, and he’s hoping to see him continue that offensive explosion for at least three more games this postseason (with him of course providing as well in Super Bowl 50).
“Oh man, he’s (David Johnson) done a great job,” Johnson said. “He’s always that guy that we didn’t think that he couldn’t step up and do what he had to do. He came in, and he catches the ball out of the backfield, and he obviously runs the ball, so it’s hard for defenses to game plan against him.”