You might be hard-pressed to find a player more vital to the Chiefs’ defense this season than inside linebacker Derrick Johnson.
Without Johnson, who missed 15 games last season with a torn Achilles tendon, the Chiefs’ run defense dropped from 11th in 2013 to 28th.
So when Johnson had to miss a few practices during organized team activities due to inflammation in his knee, it would make sense to wonder if there was any concern about his health.
But on Wednesday, Johnson — who is back to being a full practice participant in Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp this week — made it clear that there’s nothing to be concerned about.
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“I’m feeling good — I had a few days off from inflammation in my knee but I’m feeling really good,” he said. “Those few days off, whew, helped me out a lot. So my Achilles is fine, I’m not feeling it at all. And I’m healthy, that’s the main thing. If I can stay healthy, I can help this team.”
Johnson said he does not know what caused the inflammation in his knee, which happened to be on the same leg his Achilles injury happened.
“I don’t know. … It wasn’t a big scare, just a little swelling,” Johnson said. “I guess they say when you get older, things happen like that … no reason at all (for it), just old age.”
Provided Johnson is correct, and he’s healthy enough to be a regular contributor (like he plans), it won’t take him long to make a little history. In his career, he has racked up 985 career tackles, which is second on the Chiefs’ all-time tackle list behind Gary Spani (999).
Johnson, an 11-year veteran, makes no bones about the fact that it would be an honor to break Spani’s record.
“That would mean a lot,” Johnson said. “That just lets you know all the hard work paid off. I’ve been here for a while, should have been broken the record … got benched one year, I should have it by now (so) I’m a little bitter about that.”
Johnson chuckled, then continued.
“But the good thing is I have another chance, and I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity I have,” he said. “It’s going to be sweet when it happens.”