It occurs in every NFL camp every season. Newcomers arrive, and they spend the first few days learning a new language.
Quarterback Nick Foles is learning to become fluent in Chiefs speak among offensive players. On the defensive side, it’s strong safety Jeron Johnson.
Signed as a free agent late last week, Johnson is slowly easing into a place of comfort. He spent his first day mostly watching the defense. His reps increased over the next couple of days.
“I’m trying to pick it up as fast as I can,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, it’s football, just different terminology.”
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Different than what he heard in Washington, where Johnson signed a two-year deal in 2015 and appeared in 14 games that season. However, he was released on March 7.
And different than what he heard in Seattle, where Johnson spent his first four seasons after he signed there as an undrafted free agent in 2011 out of Boise State.
Johnson was a member of the Seahawks’ defense and special teams that helped Seattle to the Super Bowl title after the 2013 season. Johnson was placed on injured reserve in December that season and didn’t appear in the playoffs. He recorded a special-teams tackle in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots the next season.
Special teams are where Johnson has excelled. Last season for Washington, he blocked a punt in the end zone that was recovered for a touchdown against the Jets.
With the Chiefs, Johnson helps fill the void left by Eric Berry, who is not participating in training camp after being unable to come to terms with the team on a long-term deal in the off-season.
On the team’s depth chart for Saturday’s preseason opener against the Seahawks, Johnson is listed behind Daniel Sorensen and rookie Eric Murray, who is attempting to make a transition from cornerback to safety.
Johnson, who is wearing No. 39 in camp, was signed for depth by general manager John Dorsey.
“Dorsey is trying to create as much competition back there as he can,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
It could have happened sooner. Shortly after being released by Washington, Johnson visited with Chiefs officials in Kansas City.
“But we couldn’t get anything done,” Johnson said. “Looking back on it, I wish we had. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now.”
Which, after an off-season of staying in shape waiting for the telephone call for his services, means playing catch up, especially with the language.
“In fairness to Jeron, we haven’t seen a lot of him yet,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He’s obviously behind in learning our system, but he’s a veteran player. He’ll bring a toughness and energy to us. We just have to give him a few more days to get comfortable back there.”
Sutton said a slow immersion is preferred.
“If you’re doing a lot of thinking, it’s hard to play at your top speed,” Sutton said.
Johnson is not afraid to ask for help. He’s especially leaned on Sorensen and free safety Ron Parker, a former Seahawks teammate.
“As long as we’re communicating …” Johnson said, “I feel like I can get the job done.”