Johnson Credits Caldwell for Creating Opunity for Return
INDIANAPOLIS – Through much of the last year, they stayed in touch.
After Ed Johnson was released last September, and while he worked out and coached basketball, he said he and Jim Caldwell – then the Colts' Associate Head Coach – maintained contact.
Eventually, what Johnson hoped would happen did happen:
He got a second chance.
Johnson, a defensive tackle who started 16 games as an undrafted rookie in 2007 before being released following an off-field incident last September, said on Tuesday he has learned his lesson.
And he said he's ready to move forward.
"I'm very grateful," Johnson said Tuesday morning as the Colts continued their 2009 organized team activities at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I'm just happy to have another chance and happy to be back.
"I'm just feeling truly blessed right now."
Johnson's teammates and coaches on Tuesday discussed Johnson's return, with Caldwell saying Johnson deserved another opportunity.
"Ed is a guy who I think has a big heart," Caldwell said, who coached under Head Coach Joe Paterno at Penn State, where Johnson played collegiately.
"He loves this team. He certainly loves the guys he plays with. He's thankful to be back, to have an opportunity to be back. I certainly do sense the remorse, and the biggest thing is he has to look from this point forward and continue to press on, which he's doing and do the things that are going to make him better in all areas of his life."
Asked how the return the Colts came about, Johnson credited the relationship with Caldwell that developed during his first tenure with the team.
After Johnson left last September, Johnson said the relationship didn't end.
"I had been talking to Coach Caldwell on and off since I'd left," Johnson said. "He was staying in contact with me and I was staying in contact with him. We already had a relationship when I was here, so he was just checking on me to see how I was doing."
Caldwell said Johnson's role will be determined based on performance starting at the point of his return.
"When you bring someone back like Ed has come back, you actually start at Ground Zero," Caldwell said. "You say, 'Hey, listen, let's go from this point forward' and obviously deal with that issue as opposed to looking at what happened previously.
"My high school coach used to always say, 'Cream will always rise to the top.' At some point in time, if he's good enough and if he performs well enough, he'll take his rightful position."
Johnson (6-feet-2, 296 pounds), who originally signed with the Colts as an undrafted rookie free agent from Penn State shortly after the 2007 NFL Draft, started 16 games for the Colts in 2007. He started one game last season.
"I think I have to prove myself all over again," Johnson said. "I'm trying to do that as good as I can with my teammates and my coaches. The only way I can do that is the same way I did the first time – just go hard and keep working hard and everything will work itself out."
Johnson had 63 tackles, with 49 solos, and 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.
"I love Ed," Colts four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "He's our guy. Not everybody does everything right all the time and some people make mistakes. He understands the mistakes he's made and we'll try to give him a second chance.
"Ed has a lot of potential to be great. He had some off-the-field issues and he's straightened those things out. He should be good."
Said Johnson, "I learned a lot. I learned I can't do a lot of the things I used to do. I learned I have to change a lot of things in my personal life. It wasn't a good situation that happened, but I think it was a good thing that it happened to me when it did to help me later on in life."