Cards Camp Spotlight Featuring Chris Johnson

By: Kayla Mortellaro

TEMPE, Ariz.— Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson is the subject of this edition of the Cards Camp Spotlight on The Blitz with Rich Gray heard weekdays at 2:15 p.m.

Chris Johnson is the newest member of the Arizona Cardinals as he signed a veteran minimum contract of $870,000 on Monday. Johnson is only guaranteed $400,000 of the contract, but he could make upwards of $2 million with bonuses – gaining 1,300 yards rushing in 2015, and earning a Pro Bowl bid are among some of the incentives.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic had an interesting statistic regarding Johnson’s quest to reach 1,300 yards this season. The last, and only Cardinals running back to achieve the feat was Ottis Anderson back in 1981 when the club was still the St. Louis Cardinals.

Johnson enters his eighth year in the NFL. His distinguishing season came back in 2009 with the Tennessee Titans in which he rushed for 2,006 yards on 358 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. The career year for Johnson earned him the nickname “CJ2K”. Overall, Johnson spent six seasons with the Titans, enjoying 1,000 plus yards in all six years.

Last season, Johnson was with the New York Jets. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but was only handed the ball 155 times for 663 yards.

Over the course of Johnson’s career, he has 51 touchdowns and just 15 fumbles. Johnson has also been a threat out of the backfield. In seven seasons, Johnson has caught 296 passes for 2,154 yards, and nine touchdowns.

Most impressively, Johnson has played in 111 games out of 112 possible games over the course of his career. Johnson has proven to be durable, and he talked about why he thinks he’s enjoyed a healthy career.

Chris Johnson breaking a tackle in a game with the Titans in 2013. Photo courtesy of Scott Rovak/USA Today Sports

Chris Johnson breaking a tackle in a game with the Titans in 2013. Photo courtesy of Scott Rovak/USA Today Sports

“Just how I work out,” Johnson said Tuesday at his introductory press conference with the Cardinals. “Nobody can say that I don’t work hard. I always work hard, all season, continue to work hard, eat right. And God, number one, I pray all the time. Just been fortunate that I haven’t had to miss a game.”

Johnson is 29-years-old, going on 30 (birthday Sept. 23), but that has not stopped him from believing in himself, and believing that he can still be an offensive asset.

“I feel like I was on pace for it, if I would have gotten the touches [last year with the Jets],” Johnson said. “I still averaged the most yards per carry on team [Jets]. Losing a step, I don’t see it. I actually felt like I was more explosive last year.”

For the Cardinals, Johnson is a minimal risk, signing him to a team-friendly deal. If Johnson can produce big-numbers for the Redbirds this season, that is an added bonus. However, head coach Bruce Arians has been very clear to Johnson that he is not guaranteed anything.

“As I’ve put it to Jermaine [Gresham] and to Chris [Johnson], you’re not promised anything other than you got a spot on the roster if you make the team,” Arians said. “You still got to make the team, and then we’ll define your role on what you do on the field. We don’t promise anything when we bring guys in.”

For Johnson, this role is something that he plans to relish because he is just happy to have the opportunity to continue to play football, and play for a team that has the potential for success in the NFL this year.

“That’s cool with me,” Johnson said about not getting anything promised. “When he [Bruce Arians] first called me and we talked, I told BA, ‘I don’t want you to promise me anything, anything like that. I’m willing to come in and work for whatever my role is and whatever ya’ll need me to do.’ It’s just a situation where I’m glad to be back playing football, and just ready to go.”

Johnson had other offers, but he felt like the opportunity with the Cardinals was something he could not pass up.

“Just coming here and looking at their offense, they got great guys on the outside to stretch the field and got a quarterback who can get it down the field,” Johnson said. “My whole career I’ve kind of been dealing with eight or nine in the box and not having a quarterback like Carson [Palmer], and not having receivers out there like that to stretch the field for me. So I just felt like this would be a good situation for me. A team that has been winning, going to the playoffs, I just felt like this was the right choice.”

Johnson is also a fan of the type of offensive system that Arians runs, and he likes the idea of not having to be the power- back.

“We spread it out and it will give me a chance to pick which hole I want to hit, and not having to worry about being a power-back and running over eight or nine guys in the box,” Johnson said. “I think it will work out great, me running the ball again and catching the ball out of the backfield, screen plays and all that. So, I think it is going to work out for me.”

This past offseason, Johnson was shot in the shoulder on March 8, 2015. He was the victim of a car pulling up alongside at a red light and opening fire. Johnson said he has lost about 25 pounds, but has trained hard to get back to football playing shape. With everything that has happened to Johnson on and off the field, he is just happy to have the opportunity to play the game again.

“I wouldn’t say something to prove to somebody,” Johnson said. “I would just say something to prove to myself. Just the situation I went through, I am just happy to be back playing football on Sundays and just going to put my best foot forward.”

The Blitz with Rich Gray can be heard weekdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. with the Cards Camp Spotlight every day at 2:15 p.m.