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Cardinals’ Johnson healthy, believes ‘I’m going to be a lot better’ than before

All-Pro running back David Johnson speaks at a press conference on Thursday morning. (Photo by Shawn Moran/Cronkite News)

TEMPE, Ariz. — David Johnson has been anxiously waiting to return to work since he dislocated his wrist against the Detroit Lions in the first game of the 2017 season.

After being medically cleared on Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals running back has participated in team workouts and is feeling better than he did before his injury.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel like there’s really not going to be any difference. I think, actually, that I’m going to be a lot better.”

The Cardinals began Phase One of their offseason program this week with their new signings and returning players reporting to the facility for strength and conditioning workouts.

After compiling over 2,100 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns in the 2016 season, Johnson was limited to only 90 yards last season before the injury. In what many expected would be an MVP-caliber season, Johnson was instead sent to the operating table to surgically repair his left wrist and forced to watch his team suit up without him for the remainder of the year.

The silver lining from his 90 yards of production last season? He touched the ball 16 times before being sent to the locker room in the third quarter. After his breakout campaign in 2016, Johnson’s role had been expanded and he was set to be the focal point of the offense.

When Steve Wilks was hired, he stated that he wanted his team’s offensive philosophy to be establishing the run. How does Johnson feel about his role under his new coach?

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

With the start of voluntary minicamp coming up on April 17, Johnson is looking forward to getting back on the field with his teammates and taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

“As far as coming in, working hard and being an example, I don’t struggle with that at all,” Johnson said. “I think the biggest thing is being vocal, talking to the younger guys, talking to the teammates and letting them know how to get through all of this stuff and try to tell them a little bit about my experience.”

Team captain Patrick Peterson does not need to see anything new out of his team’s star running back.

“We’ve seen David all last year, seeing him workout, and we all thought he could play every Sunday,” Peterson said. “He’s always looking good. That guy is a freak of nature. I know he can’t wait to get back on the field. … We all know what David can do. It’s no secret that he’s a special talent and a special running back.”

After a disappointing 8-8 season last year where their leading rusher was an aging and slowed 32-year-old Adrian Peterson, Wilks will look to a younger Johnson to lead his offense.

Heading into OTA’s there is a re-energized enthusiasm coming from star players Johnson and Peterson.

With the former Northern Iowa Panther set to make his long-awaited return to the field in the coming months to be paired with big-ticket free agent Sam Bradford, the expectations of the Cardinals offense should skyrocket.

After falling just over 100 receiving yards short of only the third 1,000-yard rushing and receiving season ever two seasons ago, Johnson has his eyes set on the elusive accomplishment for his comeback campaign.

Looking to become the first running back to achieve the feat since Marshall Faulk in 1999, Johnson will not put a limit on his personal season goals.

“I’m definitely still trying to get that 1,000-1,000,” he said. “It’s definitely one of my goals this year.”

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