DT-Ed Johnson Glad to Be Back at Colts Training Camp
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Ed Johnson wore a wide smile early this week.
This was Tuesday, so yes, it was the first day for Colts 2009 Training Camp in full pads, and this was after two practices the day before, so as a defensive lineman, Johnson could have been forgiven for not being in the best of spirits. But Johnson said for him, a day in pads is just fine.
And in fact, he said he welcomed it. Very much.
"It feels good," Johnson said during Colts camp, which continued Thursday with a special teams practice at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. "I thought (Monday's first day of two-a-days) was going to be a lot worse than what it was, but it wasn't, so I was just happy to make it through, happy to be back out there with pads on.
"It's a good feeling."
Johnson said he has a lot of good feelings these days.
Because he said just being in camp – just having a chance – is as good a feeling as he can imagine.
Johnson, who signed with the Colts as a free agent shortly after the 2007 NFL Draft, started 16 games in 2007, but was released by the team after one game last season. He spent the year out of football before Indianapolis re-signed him shortly after this past April's NFL Draft.
Johnson participated in OTAs and the Colts' minicamp. Throughout that process, and in the early days of training camp, teammates and coaches have spoken of his improvement, and the enthusiasm with which he returned.
"We'll certainly tell when the fur really starts flying, but he's been good," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said this week. "He's been coming along. He was with us during OTAs and continues to improve. We hope to continue to see that type of progress."
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said upon Johnson's return, "I love Ed. He's our guy.
"He understands the mistakes he's made and we'll try to give him a second chance," Freeney said in May. "Ed has a lot of potential to be great. He should be good."
Defensive end Raheem Brock echoed those sentiments on Wednesday following the Colts' night practice at Cook Stadium, adding that Johnson's presence gives them needed size inside.
"He looks good," Brock said. "He came back and worked the whole offseason trying to get back. He's been gone for a while, so he's trying to get in shape. He looks pretty good."
Johnson had 63 tackles, with 49 solo, one sack and a forced fumble in 2007, moving into the starting role in training camp after defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland sustained a season-ending knee injury. Johnson had 10 tackles against Chicago in the 2008 season opener and was released the following week.
"He's a great player," Brock said. "He dominated in the middle and that's what we needed – a big guy who could dominate up front. He has a presence inside. That's what we needed. He's growing to be one of the leaders on the defense."
Johnson said the year away from the NFL was difficult, and that he didn't watch much football. There were too many emotions, he said.
"I always kept my head up and prayed," he said. "I kind of knew things would work out the best way possible, so I was just a little frustrated."
And while Johnson said after nearly a year without pads there is certainly an adjustment period, he also said, "I don't concern myself with a layoff."
"Is it an adjustment period?" he said. "I think so, but I think it's more just getting back into it. Once you're doing it every day, things start to come back second nature. Once you get back into the swing of things, it's your basic stuff and all of those things come back to you."
One of the things coming back, he said, was the process of getting accustomed to being in camp, to hitting and going through two-a-days. But if that process were ever difficult before, he said he doesn't come close to minding it now.
"I'm very excited," he said. "It's camp. Most people hate it, but I just couldn't wait. I've still got a little ways to go. I'm getting used to the pads. It's been almost a year since I had pads on. I feel like it's coming along, but it's a process. I'm not trying to rush anything."