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Cardinals RB David Johnson: The wrist is 100 percent, ‘I’m good to go’

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TEMPE, Ariz. – The health of Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson has been a much-discussed topic, whether it was in-season regarding a possible return that never happened or since the 2017 ended.

To say Johnson’s health is of utmost importance to the Cardinals’ success in 2018 would be an understatement.

On Thursday, Johnson put any health concerns to rest.

“It’s 100 percent,” he said, referring to the wrist he dislocated in Week 1 of 2017. “I’ll be full-speed. I got cleared so I’m good to go” for when the Cardinals ramp up their offseason program with organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camp.

Right now, though, the focus for Johnson and his teammates is strength and conditioning work, which is really all Johnson has done for the better part of six months while rehabbing from surgery.

Johnson believes he’s in the best shape of his life “because all I did was run and all I did was work out.”

He credited strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris for being innovative and changing up the workouts early in the rehab process “to where I could still get a bench or a chest or an arm workout in. Even though I couldn’t do a bench press, he was able to use machines and straps and stuff like that.”

And it’s because of that, Johnson added, that he doesn’t feel like he’s lost any strength, either in the wrist or upper body.

Johnson called dislocating his wrist “the best case of a bad injury” when compared to hurting a knee.

When healthy, Johnson is among the better dual-threats out of the backfield. Without Johnson, the Cardinals struggled.

In 2017, the Cardinals rushed for 1,386 yards, or 147 fewer yards than Johnson totaled by himself the year prior. Three different running backs started once Johnson went down, with Adrian Peterson (448 rushing yards) having the most success.

Overall, the Cardinals had their troubles finding the end zone. The offense as a whole finished with 27 touchdowns. Johnson scored 20 in 2016.

“We all know what David can do,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said Thursday. “It’s no secret that he’s a special talent, he’s a special running back; and we definitely need him to make our offense go.”

And from all indications, Johnson is going to be the focal point of the offense. From Day 1, first-year head coach Steve Wilks made it known he prefers a run-first offense.

Johnson smiled when asked that.

“I’m very encouraged,” he said. “That was really uplifting to hear Coach Wilks talk about that right away, about how demoralizing it is on a defense to run the ball. I was very excited to hear that.”

Even more so, one would think, given that Johnson is entering the final year of his contract. He insisted, however, that the injury and learning the new coaching staff and teammates are his primary focuses.

Johnson said having to sit and watch last season was “the toughest year of my football career.” And while his teammates tried to encourage him, it really was his family, specifically his soon-to-be three-month-old son David Jerome Johnson Jr., who lifted his spirits up the most after a bad day.

“When I got home and seeing his smile — he’s a very happy boy, he’s laughing at everybody and he’s always cheerful,” Johnson said. “Going home after being down on myself, it really uplifted me and made me realize that there’s a lot more important things in life”

Still, there’s nothing like playing the game of football, and Johnson, like many of his teammates after an 8-8 season, is anxious to get back on the field.

The question now is whether Johnson will be the same player he was two years ago? Johnson earned his first first-team All-Pro honors and was named to his first Pro Bowl after leading the NFL and establishing a franchise single-season record in scrimmage yards (2,118) and touchdowns (20), including a franchise-best 16 rushing.

“I feel like there’s really not going to be any difference. I think, actually, I’m going to be a lot better because with me being hurt last year, I feel like I got smarter in watching,” he said.

“Unfortunately, with (former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer) being hurt, I was able to talk to him on the sideline, and he was able to tell me some of the stuff what quarterbacks look at, and he was able to talk to me and teach me some of the stuff to where I can use it in my offense and use it when I’m out there on the field.”