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Arizona Cardinals RB Chris Johnson: ‘This was the best place for me’

Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) celebrates his touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Returning to the Arizona Cardinals was always an option for running back Chris Johnson. But first, he wanted to explore his other options.

And in the end, the Cardinals were the best option, according to Johnson, who this week put pen to paper on a one-year contract, thus extending his Cardinals tenure to a third straight season.

“It took some thinking, but at the end of the day, I just felt like this was the best place for me,” he said Friday, after completing the run test.

First and foremost on Johnson’s mind was playing time.

With David Johnson entrenched as the starter in Arizona, Johnson was expected to look elsewhere for an increased role once free agency hit. And he did.

Not once did he think about retirement.

A couple of teams showed interest, Johnson said, but “this still was the best situation, and at this point in my career not wanting to go in and learn a totally whole new playbook and have to learn a whole new city and all those things, moving and all that, it was just best to be here.”

And now that he is, Johnson sounded confident when speaking to reporters that he would get his touches, saying, “this year might be a little different.”

Asked why, Johnson mentioned his relationship with head coach Bruce Arians and conversations that the two had over the offseason.

Those conversations included offensive sets featuring an all-Johnson backfield, according to Arians.

“We’ve always wanted to have some two-back stuff. We’ve had it in the plan every year and one of the two gets hurt all the damn time,” he said. “But, we’ll have some two-back stuff with he and David back there; and the same with Kerwynn (Williams) and Andre (Ellington), all those guys have that position flexibility of playing receiver and running back.”

Last season was a struggle for Johnson. He played in the first four games before suffering a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve and subsequently ended his 2016 with career-lows in both attempts (25) and yards (95).

Johnson, who turns 32 in September, enters his 10th NFL season 463 yards shy of 10,000 for his career.

“It’s important, but most of all I still get to play football,” he said. “It’s something I always dreamed of doing. It’s always a goal of mine to play over 10 years in this league, so that’s the main thing for me.”

If nothing else, the signing of Johnson gives the Cardinals added depth and, perhaps more importantly, some experience in the running backs’ room, which this season is under the direction of Freddie Kitchens, previously the team’s quarterbacks coach the past four years.

“I’m excited. I definitely am glad that he’s back,” David Johnson said. “I was hoping that he would come back here just because he’s a great leader and obviously a great player and I can’t wait to learn some more from him.”

Lesson No. 1: Don’t be late. Chris Johnson made it a point to report to training camp on time.

“I just always knew I was going to make a decision, whatever it was going to be,” he said, “before training camp starts so I can be in training camp and get in football shape for the regular season.”

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