The pain was all too familiar to Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. About midway through the second quarter of the Raiders’ December visit for a Thursday night game at Arrowhead, Johnson’s eyes darted seeking out the play. When he made his final decision to break to his right, Johnson crumbled to the turf.
Before he sat upright, Johnson unsnapped his chin strap to start removing his helmet in injury surrender. Johnson didn’t need to hear the diagnosis. He had ruptured his Achilles tendon before, three years earlier. That was on his right foot. This was on his left.
The one consolation, at least Johnson knew the way back. And he’s headed in the right direction.
“I’m at a good spot,” Johnson said.
A good spot to return full-go for training camp. He will continue to rehab through organized team activities, but when the pads go on at camp at Missouri Western in St. Joseph, Johnson expects to use them.
“If I’m not 100 percent at (training) camp, there will have been some kind of setback,” Johnson said. “I’ll be back hitting or dodging some blocks.”
That’s great news for the Chiefs, who will welcome back their career tackle leader. Johnson and punter Dustin Colquitt are the team’s longest-tenured players. The pair joined the Chiefs in 2005 and are set to begin their 13th seasons with the club.
Johnson, a four-time Pro Bowler, was having a solid season when the injury occurred and his run-stopping capability was missed, especially in the home playoff loss to the Steelers when Le’Veon Bell controlled the game with 170 rushing yards.
“I wanted to help for sure,” Johnson said. “You never know how it would have turned out if I had been out there.”
Johnson started the 2014 opener and injured his Achilles before halftime. He missed the rest of the season. Also suffering the same injury in that game was defensive lineman Mike DeVito. The players rehabbed together.
Johnson didn’t have a rehab partner this time, which made things tough in the beginning.
“It was harder mentally at the beginning because you don’t do much, and having Mike the last time, having somebody to talk to every single (day),” Johnson said. “But the good part was, this time it wasn’t trial and error. I knew exactly what to do, how to be patient with it.”
Johnson, 34, signed a $21 million, three-year contract before last season and restructured the deal to help create cap space.
“I’m a Chief,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, I want to help out the team as much as I can. I’ll be all right on the money side. It made sense to work out something.”
Johnson said he doesn’t know how much time he has left in football. He wants to make the most of what time remains.
“I don’t have a number, I struggle with that,” Johnson said. “The older you get, the more you know it’s coming to an end at some point. I just pray and hope when football is over for me I can have peace and know I gave it my all.”