Cardinals hope to have found steal in OL Dorian Johnson

Apr 29, 2017, 4:46 PM

(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, FIle)...

(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, FIle)

(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, FIle)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Supposedly, a liver issue is what caused Dorian Johnson to fall to the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, pick No. 115 overall.

How much of a concern is it? Well, when asked what it was called, Johnson said he couldn’t remember.

“It’s like a really long word,” he said, with a laugh.

So, apparently, not really much of a concern.

A 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman who played both guard and tackle for Pitt, Johnson spent the majority of his time at left guard, but said he is comfortable anywhere along the line. Scouting reports reveal a solid all-around lineman who has room to improve, but a pretty high floor.

According to Johnson, his issue results in him having five times the normal amount of enzymes in his liver. He has had it his entire life, and it hasn’t proven to be a problem so far.

“It hasn’t affected me in my playing, whatsoever, but I guess a lot of teams thought it was a red flag and thought it was going to prohibit the way I play,” he said.

Johnson proclaimed himself to be completely healthy without issues, though he does treat himself with medication.

Otherwise, he is “absolutely not worried about it all.”

The Cardinals are comfortable with him.

“Some think Coach and I have some liver issues but we’re doing just fine,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said, admitting it was a terrible joke. “He’s fine. He’s doing alright. It’s not been an issue in the past.

“I’ve talked to everybody at Pittsburgh, I’ve talked to our medical staff, I’ve talked to our team doctor; we don’t foresee it being an issue, particularly in a guy that could have been taken quite a bit higher and somebody we were very, very excited about.”

If not for his liver, Johnson likely would have been picked long before the Cardinals ultimately grabbed him. A four-year letterman at Pitt who started 42 of 51 games he played in and was a first-team All-American as a senior, Keim said they had him rated extremely high.

“Physical player, excellent technician, extremely smart,” he said. “Fortunate, in my opinion, to get him in round four.”

Perhaps the Cardinals’ risk, however big or slight it may be, will turn into their gain.

“I was expecting to go a lot earlier,” Johnson said. “But it is what it is. I’m just truly grateful to have this opportunity to play for the Cardinals, and everything happens for a reason.”

Johnson said he had a meeting and workout with Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin after Pitt’s pro day, and met with the organization at the Scouting Combine as well. His experience in a pro-style offense at Pitt should help his transition to the NFL, and though he finished his college career with 39 straight starts, Johnson understands a similar role may not be waiting for him just yet.

“Generally, coaches haven’t really told me what their plans for me, if they want me to come in and start right away or if I’m going to pushing for a spot,” he said. “As a player, my mindset is I should be pushing for starting time, regardless.

“I should be holding myself to that standard, that I’m going to come in, I’m going to work every day, get the playbook down, work on the technique, do whatever extra and I’m going to try to push to play as early as possible to help the team.”

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