On the days veterans reported to Chiefs training camp, linebacker Derrick Johnson fielded questions from reporters about his impending team record for tackles. Did he know how many he needed to climb to No. 1?
“Fifteen,” Johnson said. “That number is going to stay back there until I break it. After that, everything else will be icing.”
Johnson recorded four tackles in last season’s opener before suffering a season-ending torn Achilles tendon, putting the sure-bet record on hold for another year. With 15 more tackles, Johnson will have exactly 1,000, surpassing the Chiefs record set by linebacker Gary Spani during 1978-86.
Where will 1,000 career tackles rank in NFL history?
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
No telling. Tackles are not an official NFL statistic. A search of websites produces different lists of career leaders. For instance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers list Derrick Brooks as their career leader with 2,198 tackles. On other sites, Brooks is listed with fewer tackles by the hundreds.
Tackle statistics are kept by the home team’s stats crew and unlike interceptions or fumble recoveries can be a judgment call and sometimes changed after film review by coaches.
The Chiefs started keeping tackle stats in 1977, and they’re part of the team’s record book. Johnson holds the season record with 179 in 2011.
Johnson, who missed all but two quarters of last season and spent most of the 2009 season banished to special teams and a role in the nickel defense, would already be the career record holder if either of those seasons broke differently.
As it is, he’ll probably set the team mark in the second game, the home opener against the Broncos on Sept. 17, a Thursday. It may be an unofficial record, but whenever it happens, it will be a special occasion.
And Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said it appears Johnson hasn’t missed a step.
“I think he’s back to where he was,” Sutton said. “He came out yesterday a couple of times in the indoor on wide plays and chasing Jamaal (Charles) down and it looked to me like D.J. looks. He’s very athletic, as you all know, and I think he looks fine. As far as talking to him, he feels great.”
Chiefs career tackle leaders
999: Gary Spani, 1978-86
992: Art Still, 1978-87
985: Derrick Johnson, 2005-14
927: Deron Cherry, 1981-91
876: Donnie Edwards, 1996-01, 2007-08
827: Kevin Ross 1984-93, ’97