Mask on: Paris Johnson influencing Cardinals’ handshake game

Aug 21, 2023, 8:15 PM

Paris Johnson signs rookie contract...

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Pregame traditions are an important part to every NFL player’s routine.

However loud or quiet they might be, every player has something they lean on as they prepare for the game ahead.

For Arizona Cardinals rookie offensive lineman Paris Johnson, it’s as simple as getting his pregame prayer in and orchestrating his “mask on” handshake from his college days. And don’t get it twisted, one cannot be done without the other.

Since his arrival to the desert, Johnson has often been seen throwing on that metaphorical mask, whether it’s before team periods at practice or preseason games.

It’s a way for the lineman to lock in between the white lines, while also serving as another way to bond with veteran D.J. Humphries and other members of the franchise.

“That handshake gets me going,” Johnson said Monday. “He says the stuff I do with him … is keeping him young. It was something I did in college before the games at Ohio State. It was kind of like my tradition. They saw me when I first got here before team periods. I would do it myself.

“I started doing it with Hump and he liked it so much that James Conner every now and then he does it with me, and Hump’s like, ‘No, no. That’s just our thing.’ But it’s starting to catch on. Now, I see James doing it with (Hollywood Brown), but the end is different. It’s kind of cool, gets me going, so we do it before every team period and do it before we take the field. It’s just throwing that mask on, a different type of mode.”

Tossing the mask on is a crucial part to Johnson’s — and now Humphries’ — game. That’s not say, however, that the rookie doesn’t have another unique one up his sleeve with right guard Will Hernandez.

“We wouldn’t call it a handshake, we would call it more of a belly shake,” Hernandez told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke in May. “It involves our hands. You’ll see it one day. We don’t want to give everything away. Just keep a lookout before the play on Sundays.”

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