David Johnson back to ‘full throttle,’ motivated by birth of son

Apr 6, 2017, 9:58 AM | Updated: 2:41 pm

Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson smiles as he gets ready to put his helmet on during practice at th...

Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson smiles as he gets ready to put his helmet on during practice at the NFL football teams training camp, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

LISTEN: David Johnson, Cardinals running back

When we last saw David Johnson on the field, he was leaving the Week 17 finale against the Los Angeles Rams with a knee injury.

He also, at the time, was not a father.

Now just more than four months later, Johnson said his knee is fine following the MCL sprain. In fact, he was cleared a couple weeks ago and is “back to full throttle” with his training and working out in preparation for the next season.

But that’s not the only difference for Johnson. It’s also not the greatest.

David Jerome Johnson, Jr. was born on Jan. 14, and not surprisingly, that moment changed the young running back’s perspective.

“Just everything I think about now, it’s always towards my family and especially bettering him for when he gets older,” Johnson told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “All my mentality has changed as far as why I’m playing football or what I’m doing day-to-day life.

“Especially it just, everything I do now, me and my wife do, now we actually have to have a whole routine, have a whole thing going on before we leave. We can’t just get up and go now.”

No, they can’t.

Off the field, Johnson’s life has done a 180. On it, he will be pressing forward, looking to build off a historic second professional season.

In 2016, Johnson led the league in yards from scrimmage, with 2,118, as well as touchdowns, with 20. He set numerous franchise records in the process, and was likely to be the first player in league history to record at least 100 yards from scrimmage in all 16 games in a season until he got hurt.

The injury, along with the birth of his son, could have led to Johnson reflecting on his career’s mortality, but instead of pondering a possible earlier retirement, it all has pushed him even more toward playing as long as he can.

“This game of football is something that I love, and I never want to short-change myself or get out as quick as I can,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play long.

“My biggest thing now is I actually want to play as long as I can to where he’s actually able to watch me play and actually understand the game of football instead of me having to get out tapes and being able to prove to him that I was once an NFL player.”

Clearly the 25-year-old did not need much in the way of motivation, with the chip on his shoulder and goal of proving doubters wrong. That has not necessarily gone away, but Johnson said his son and his family now top the list of what he is playing for.

“It’s made me a lot more perceptive on what I’ve got to do to provide for my family,” he said. “I don’t think it’s more of a stress; I think it’s just more of doing what I’ve got to do, really, to provide for them.”

These days, who isn’t Johnson providing for?

Last season, Johnson not only led the team in rushing, with 293 carries for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he also added 80 catches for 879 yards and four scores, with the receptions and yards ranking second.

Speaking at the annual NFL owners meetings, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Johnson — who led the NFL in touches last season — is too young to be overused, and would like to see the star running back get the ball around 30 times per game.

Johnson said he is “definitely OK” with getting the ball more because he likes to have it in his hands. As for 30 touches?

“I feel great, I’m ready to go,” Johnson said of the prospect. “My health is back to 100 percent; I’m excited for this year.

“Each year I feel like I get better, learn a lot more of the game of football and get more comfortable each year as it goes. I can’t wait, hopefully I do get 30 carries a game.”

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