On a dreary, wet Wednesday, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson was running around with the Chiefs’ rookies on the practice field at Missouri Western, directing traffic and getting back into the swing of things on the second day of training camp.
Unless you already knew, you would have never guessed No. 56 snapped his left Achilles just eight months ago.
“I don’t want to think about it too much,” Johnson said with a laugh, when asked how he’s return to action so quickly. “It’s some good luck, I want to keep it going.”
Johnson, 34, says he is ahead of the pace he set when he snapped his right Achilles in Sept. 2014. He has been cleared to hit with the rest of his teammates when the Chiefs don pads early next week.
“They haven’t told me they’re holding me back, so I’m going,” Johnson said.
The glint of excitement in his eye was obvious. Johnson has made it a yearly tradition to lay out someone once the pads come on during training camp, and he has no plans of stopping now.”
“I’m a linebacker — you’ve got to embrace those moments,” Johnson said. “I’ll get back to talking noise to the running backs and the offense and getting our competitive juices going. I can’t wait.”
Johnson insists his readiness for contact extends beyond the physical. He noted the fact that he played 75 percent of the snaps before his season-ending injury last year has allowed his football instincts to remain sharp. His previous Achilles tear came so early in the season that when he returned the next year, he felt it had essentially be two years since he’d played football.
“Mentally, I’m almost there all the way already,”Johnson said. “And physically, I get a little faster during camp, so it’s perfect.”
Johnson will rest Thursday, along with quarterback Alex Smith and tight end Travis Kelce, the other established vets who showed up early for camp. But Chiefs coach Andy Reid loves what he sees so far.
“He was testing it a little bit yesterday and then today, he was able to get out here and make some plays, and that’s good to see,” Reid said. “His attitude says everything. He comes out here like he’s 20.”
Reid and the coaching staff also got a chance to get a good look at Kelce, who missed the entirety of organized team activities after undergoing surgery to clean up his shoulder after the season. Kelce looked quick, albeit against rookies (veterans report Thursday and practice on Friday) and barring a few drops.
“We’re rolling man, we’re rolling — feels great,” Kelce said. “Haven’t had any problems with it these first two days in camp. Had a few dropped balls I’ve got to clean up, but other than that, we’re working.”
When asked if he’s been able to lift weights to strengthen his upper body — a common issue for players who have offseason shoulder surgery — Kelce took the opportunity to make a joke.
“Are you saying my arms look small right now? Because it feels like you’re telling me my arms are small,” Kelce said with a chuckle. “I’m in the weight room. I’m doing everything I can to get ready for the season, including the weight room. There’s nothing holding me back in terms of movement or weight.”
Reid said he’s looking foward to seeing what Kelce, 27, will do in his fifth NFL season.
“Every year you’ve seen him do more things, just variations of the passing game,” Reid said. “He can do everything a wide receiver can do, so he gives up more flexibility in that way.”