Colts Reserve Tackle Johnson Stays Prepared for Any Position
INDIANAPOLIS – To Charlie Johnson, the title doesn't much matter.
It didn't matter much in his first two NFL seasons, during each of which he played a key role on the Colts' offensive line. And considering the way the team approaches offensive line play, he doesn't figure it will mean much in the future.
A starter? Sure, Johnson said, he would love to start, and he said that will be his goal entering this season as it was last.
But as a title . . .
Well, the word "starter" just doesn't matter. Not much, anyway.
"Every week, you have to prepare, because you don't know," Johnson said during the Colts' organized team activities – 14 days of on-field work that will continue at the team's practice facility through mid-June.
"There could be an ankle (injury) here, shoulders, whatever. Next thing you know, you're in the game. You have to prepare yourself like you're going to play."
You have to prepare yourself like you're going to play . . .
That is a credo the Colts emphasize to backups throughout the roster, and it's an approach that helped the team win a fifth consecutive AFC South title last season despite a slew of injuries at several positions.
It's also a credo that long has been key to the success of the offensive line.
And it's one that has been a defining credo for Johnson's career since he joined the Colts as a fifth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft from Oklahoma State.
As a rookie, Johnson started just one regular-season game, playing extensively in another, but in the Colts' victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, he replaced injured right tackle Ryan Diem.
Johnson played well enough that quarterback Peyton Manning said afterward he didn't realize Diem was out of the game for several series.
"That's what I strive for, and that's what anybody who plays on the offensive line strives for," Johnson said. "That's a big part of our philosophy – that you don't know when your number is going to be called. (Colts Head) Coach (Tony) Dungy is always talking about, 'We're going to have to count on all 53 guys at some point during the year.'
"You just strive to go in and not have it be a drop off."
Last year, Johnson was a backup at right and left guard and right and left tackle, working at each position in nearly every practice.
After being inactive for the first two games of the season, he played in every game thereafter, starting five games at right tackle and five games at left. During a typical practice, Johnson said he will work a few plays at right tackle, then "just move on down the line.
"It's pretty much all four spots – four or five reps here, four or five reps there," he said. "That was my job. That's the way it fell. I just went in and played. That's been my role ever since I've been here – I've kind of been the top backup, so to speak. Get reps at tackle, get reps at guard – that was my job, and that is my job.
"I have to be ready to go in at any spot."
And while at first he said it took time to adjust to playing multiple positions, "I've gotten more adjusted to it. It actually helps to be able to do everything because you learn what everybody is doing. If I went into a game and I was playing right tackle, if a certain play is called, I know that the guard is doing and vice versa. It actually helps in the preparation because you know the whole game plan and not just one spot."
Johnson said during OTAs he doesn't know for certain his role next season. While he played tackle this past season, he said he may have an opunity in training camp to compete at right guard, with Jake Scott – the starter the past four seasons – having signed with the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent during the off-season.
"I'm not really sure how the guard situation's going to work out," he said. "It hasn't been decided, so I'm going to use this time, use these OTAs, to get better. I want to get ready to go into camp and compete and try to get a spot and try to get better toward the end of the year."
And no matter what the role, he said he will be ready, because if he has learned anything the past two seasons, it's that on the Colts' offensive line he said specific roles are like titles.
They don't much matter and you have to be ready whatever one might come your way.
"That's the way I look at it," he said. "I just play. I try not to think about where I'm at or what's going on. I just try to be a player who goes in and plays, who's prepared and who knows what's going to happen when a play is called. There were spots last year where we were at the eighth and ninth guy, so it's not just a case of needing sixth and seventh guy.
"You have to have a core of guys who can go in and play."
THE OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Eighth NFL season
Acquired: Fourth round, 2001
The Colts' starting right tackle each of the past five seasons, Diem started 10 games at the position last regular season, then started the Colts' playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers. . . . He has been a fixture on the line for seven seasons, starting at guard in 2001 and 2002 before moving to right tackle in 2003.
Second NFL season
Acquired: Second Round, 2007
An athletic, physical tackle, Ugoh moved into the starting lineup on the first day of training camp last season following the retirement of three-time Pro Bowl selection Tarik Glenn. . . . He started 11 regular-season games, missing five games in October and November with an injury. . . . He was selected with the 10th choice of the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Third NFL season
Acquired: Sixth round, 2006
Johnson, a sixth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, started one regular-season game as a rookie, then started 10 games at right and left tackle last season. . . . He replaced an injured Ryan Diem in Super Bowl XLI and played effectively against Adewale Ogunleye, helping hold the Chicago Pro Bowl defensive end without a sack.
Third NFL season
Acquired: Free agent, 2006
Federkeil, who originally signed with the Colts as a collegiate free agent after the 2006 NFL Draft, spent much of the 2006 season on the practice squad before joining the team as a free agent that December. . . . He was on the active roster for 12 games last season before being placed on injured reserve on December 5 with a concussion.
First NFL season
Acquired: Fifth round, 2006
A fifth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, Toudouze spent his rookie season on the Colts' practice squad. . . . He was re-signed on February 7, 2007, then was active in four games last season, three as a left tackle and one as a right tackle.
Second NFL season