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Injuries slow Rams' speedy new CB
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, Sep. 06 2005
At his pro day coming out of college, Chris Johnson turned heads by running the
40-yard dash in a sizzling 4.18 seconds.
"To me it's a blessing," Johnson said. "A lot of people aren't really blessed
to be that fast. So that's just something that stuck with me once I did it."
It stuck with him, all right. Johnson, a cornerback from the University of
Louisville, commemorated the occasion with a tattoo. The inscription is "4." on
his left calf. His right calf reads: "18." Put them together, and you have
That was 2 1/2 years ago. The tattoo is still there.
"It's not going nowhere," Johnson said.
No, but Johnson is. The fastest player in the 2003 NFL draft was traded
Saturday evening from Green Bay to the Rams for linebacker Robert Thomas.
Johnson, 25, passed his physical Sunday morning, flew into St. Louis that night
and was on the practice field Monday at Rams Park.
Even though Johnson entered the NFL in 2003, knee and leg injuries so far have
prevented him from playing in a regular-season game.
Physically, Johnson says, "I feel great."
As for being traded for a former NFL first-rounder, Johnson laughed and added,
"That feels even better."
The Rams, obviously, were eager to dump Thomas, whose toughness and intensity
were questioned by some at Rams Park. So eager that he was traded for a former
seventh-round pick whose next NFL game will be his first.
"Here's a tall guy with terrific deep speed and range," coach Mike Martz said.
"He has the reach."
But can he stay healthy? "After my first year, it was just really a mind
thing," said Johnson, who is 5 feet 11, 198 pounds. "So I had to dedicate
myself back to the weight room, and back to running. And just focus on my job.
Once I did that, everything came into play. So now I'm feeling good and ready
In Green Bay, Johnson suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee as a
rookie when he collided with wide receiver Donald Driver in a training camp
practice. So much for his 2003 season.
"I was trying to cover him, and he stopped, and I kind of placed my knee up
under his backbone," Johnson said. "It was a little freak accident."
That was injury No. 1.
Before the 2004 season, Johnson suffered a stress fracture in the tibia, the
larger of the two bones in the lower leg. Contrary to previous reports, the
injury was in his left leg - not the same leg as his knee injury.
"I think I was overcompensating on my left side," Johnson said. "My left side
was a little stronger than the right side at the time. So I was compensating on
that left side, and putting a lot of stress on it."
Thus ended his 2004 campaign. He spent the first half of the season on the
physically unable to play (PUP) list. He was on the active roster for the
second half of the season but never appeared in a game.
After experiencing further problems with the tibia, Johnson began training camp
this season on the PUP list but was activated in time to appear in the Packers'
final three preseason games.
In trading for Johnson, Martz relied on input from secondary coach Kurt
Schottenheimer, who held the same position last year in Green Bay.
"In this situation, I solely relied on Kurt's opinion of him," Martz said.
"Obviously, he coached him. He had great things to say about him. Thought he
had terrific potential. He had some injury issues that we hope and think are
cleared up at this point. He's still rough around the edges, but he's a
competitive guy with a lot of ability that we think in short order can
contribute for us."
As Johnson gets acclimated to his new team and a new defensive system, he has
another ally besides Schottenheimer in Rams free safety Michael Hawthorne.
Johnson and Hawthorne were teammates in Green Bay the past two seasons.
"He was one of my mentors at Green Bay," Johnson said. "When I first came in, I
didn't know the playbook that well ... and I just learned from him."
"I consider that guy my little brother," Hawthorne said. "I just took him under
my wings when I got to Green Bay."
When asked about Johnson's game, Hawthorne replied: "You already know he's
fast. He's got a little size on him."
Then Hawthorne smiled and added, "He reminds you of me, huh?"
But seriously. ...
"He's pretty physical," Hawthorne said. "He's fast. Stay tuned. You might like
what you see."
Re: Injuries slow Rams' speedy new CB
Sounds Great,hopefully He Stays Healthy And This Potential That He Has Pans Out.
Re: Injuries slow Rams' speedy new CB
Wow 4.18 that is faster than heck!RamsFan16