Charlie Johnson Says He'll Keep Working to Earn His Position
INDIANAPOLIS – Charlie Johnson said he's not comfortable. Not at all.
Not that the Colts' veteran left offensive tackle isn't confident, and not that he doesn't feel very capable of doing his job.
It's just that word, "Comfortable."
Johnson, entering his fifth season with the Colts, has been many things for the Colts during his career. He has been a starting guard. He has been a starting tackle. He has been a reserve. He has been a player who has played just about everywhere on the offensive line.
What he said never has been is "comfortable."
And he said he doesn't want to start now.
"I don't think I'll ever feel like that just in the sense that I worked hard to get there, so I don't want to settle," Johnson said this past week, the final week of organized team activities – four weeks of on-field, team-oriented work at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Johnson (6-feet-4, 305 pounds) hardly has settled during his NFL career.
A sixth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft from Oklahoma State, where he spent part of his career at tight end before moving to tackle, has not only worked since joining the Colts, that work increasingly has made him an integral member of the Colts' offensive line.
He played mostly as a backup as a rookie, but after starting one regular-season game that season, he replaced injured teammate Ryan Diem in Super Bowl XLI, and played extensively at right tackle.
He played something close to that role the next two seasons, entering each season as a backup, but instead playing a critical role and starting extensively each season.
In 2007, he started five games at left tackle for Tony Ugoh and five games for right tackle for Diem, finishing the season with 10 starts. In 2008, he entered the season again listed as a backup, but started 12 games at left guard and four at left tackle.
In 2009, he moved into the starting left tackle role in the off-season.
And that season, rather than moving positions and rather than playing in place of someone, he spent the season as the starting left tackle, starting 12 of 16 games and missing starts only when injured.
"I want to keep that mentality of trying to work and trying to keep the spot," Johnson said. "I've finally got to that point, so now I'm trying to stay there and hopefully stay there for a long time.
"I just go out there and try to play winning football and help this team win. I don't get caught in what people say or what people think the team should do there or whatever, or if I'm the guy there.
"I'm playing and I'm just trying to win football games. All of the talking, I just let that stuff be."
That process, Johnson said, continued during the off-season, a time which the Colts put a high value in terms of preparation for the upcoming season. Johnson said that period is a time in which he always has focused to improve individually as well, and it's a time that has been critical to the team's success in recent seasons.
"This is the time where we get our edge and this is the time we put the work in," Johnson said.
With Colts President Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell each discussing in recent weeks and months the potential for a competitive situation along the offensive line, Johnson – like many of his teammates along the line – said competition should help improve the line as a whole.
And overall, Johnson said the four weeks or organized team activities remained crucial not only to the rookies who worked to become acclimated to the Colts' system, but for the veterans expected to provide leadership to the entire roster.
"It means a lot, not only for the team, but for the young guys coming in," Johnson said. "The new guys, when they come in, they watch us work. They watch (Colts quarterback) Peyton (Manning). They watch (center) Jeff (Saturday). They watch all these guys who have been here.
"They watch how they work and it helps them learn how we do things. It's also a sign of why we've been successful, because we're all willing to come in early and do all of this and put the work in."
While that sort of work, if not routine, is certainly the norm around the Colts, and Johnson said the vibe around the Colts this off-season is "very eager" following the team's second AFC Championship in the last four seasons a year ago.
"We're been fortunate enough to feel what it's like to win one (a Super Bowl) and now that we lost one, it's not a good feeling," Johnson said. "We want to get back and try to get back on top and get that feeling back of being a champion.
"We know what it feels like. We want to keep that feeling."