As a professional athlete, there are two ways to react to your team adding players at your position — you can view them as a threat or reinforcements. Detroit Lions running back Kerry Johnson is choosing the latter.
After the Lions added a high-profile draft pick to the backfield earlier in the offseason, selecting Georgia’s D’Andre Swift in the second round of the draft, the team further bolstered their depth by signing seven-time Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson this week.
Threatened? No, elated might be the better way to describe how Johnson reacted to the news.
“I knew D’Andre was a good back,” Johnson said Wednesday, after Peterson’s first practice with the Lions. “I knew I needed help. I knew we wanted to get the most amount of good people (possible) on our team. It means the other team doesn’t have them. So if you come to me and (say) to me, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign Adrian Peterson’, like, of course, hell yeah. Sign him. Yeah, bring him on board. This man has won games by himself, he continues to win games by himself, he can help us win games and that’s all I want to do.”
Johnson said he doesn’t know how Peterson’s addition will impact his role on game days, but he’s also not sweating it. Johnson knows those coaching decisions are out of his control and he’ll be ready as often as they call his number.
“We’ll see how that ends up shaking out,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We love what Kerryon has done for us. I was so excited for Kerryon last year, and just the tenacity he’s shown — the determination — to come back at the end of the year, I thought that was something special. I thought that showed what he’s got inside of him, and the makeup that he has. I think it said a lot to his teammates, certainly said a lot to me.
As for the opportunity to be around and learn from Peterson, it’s all been a bit much for the third-year back out of Auburn.
“Quite frankly, it’s weird,” Johnson said. “He’s going to be a for-sure Hall of Famer and I get to sit next to him in meetings. He’s trying to learn things from me and I’m trying to learn things from him. But I’m like, ‘What do I have to offer?’ You know what I’m saying, just because he’s been there, done everything I could say. It’s very weird, but no, we haven’t quite hit him with the autograph session yet. I think everybody is trying to play it cool right now, try to treat him like he’s normal.”
But there is one piece of advice Johnson is eager to learn about from his new teammate.
“How is he still running?,” Johnson said. “What is he, 15 years in the league or something like that? ACL surgery, here and there and whatever bumps and bruises he’s gone through and he’s still running, he’s still explosive. We go through a walk-through and he’s dang-near running in the walk-through. What’s that key?”
Johnson has had durability issues since being drafted by the Lions, missing extensive time each of his first two seasons due to knee injuries. The additions of Swift and Peterson should lighten the week-to-week load, while simultaneously providing insurance if the injury bug were to strike again.
“I’m excited for what Kerryon’s been doing for us, but we know it’s a physical game, and we’ll be able to share those carries,” Bevell said. “There will be plenty of carries to go around.”
The Lions have taken a proactive approach with Johnson this offseason, limiting his practice time during training camp to ensure he’s at full strength entering the regular season.
That’s something Johnson appreciated.
“Yeah, I feel good,” he said. “It wasn’t a traditional (camp) beating. It was pretty nice and convenient and they were able to work with me on that and I was willing to work with them. I think it played out as the best-case scenario for both parties, me and the team and me and the coaching staff, as well. It was pretty nice. I greatly appreciated it from them.”