A quarterback who has been around

Fifteenth-year veteran Brad Johnson, who's now in his second go-around as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, also has started during his career with Washington and Tampa Bay, where he led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title after the 2002 season. Here, Johnson talks Vikings and 49ers and gives his takes on several subjects regarding the two teams entering Sunday's game at Monster Park.

On playing the 49ers this week after the Patriots Monday night: "We've had a turnover the last two weeks. We went out to Seattle and beat them, after they had won the last 24 out of their 27 games. We have a great victory out there and then we come back against New England on Monday night. They are a very good team, which they've proven over time, and we kind of laid an egg, and they played great. For us right now, we are 4-3 and we are right in the middle of this thing. We're making another road trip and we have to find a way to get our fifth win regardless."

On if there is anyone on the 49ers defense he has to pay particular attention to: "Well they have some proven players on defense. Obviously you start with Bryant Young, who has been a dominant force in the business for a long time. Derek Smith, who I played with in Washington, has started the last nine years and has only missed a couple of games. Walt Harris creates turnovers, forces fumbles, and whatever else he has going on. Obviously they have struggled at times for whatever reason, but we just have to play better ball on our end and not worry about what's happening on someone else's part."

On how you go about working on ball security: "It's something we stress in practice. In the games we've won we've taken care of the ball and in the games we lost we've had turnovers. It's the number one study in football that whoever turns the ball over the most usually loses. Obviously both teams are coming off embarrassing losses, so it's going to be two hungry teams."

On how his current stint with the Vikings is different than his first: "It's a lot different because I was drafted in the ninth round, and I didn't play for the first couple of years. I finally got an opportunity to play, and I played well when I was here. I also went through a bunch of injuries at that time. It was great for me at that point, I had been here for seven years, and I got traded to Washington where I was under Norv Turner for two years. There, I just learned to be decisive and get the ball out of my hands quicker. Then I went to Tampa Bay and coming back here has been a great run for me. Obviously it wasn't the situation I wanted when I first came back here last year, but I came in, went 7-2 last year, and got off to a good start this year. It has been nice."

On having his best statistical year under Norv Turner and what he remembers of him: "Well, I've had some good years in a few different places. I think what was great for me that year with Norv was that I got to learn a new system, and a different style of play. I quickened up my drop tremendously with Norv and became a better spot thrower. I hit my last step, and threw into spots. The routes he runs are timing routes and you better throw it on the break in that system. He just made me more decisive with the ball and when we went to the playoffs in 1999, it was a great experience for all of us. We came together and I think just playing for Norv really turned my career around."

On the best things about the West Coast offense and Norv Turner's offense: "There are a lot of similarities in most systems in general. In Norv's system, he has a great running attack, and he finds ways to get the ball down the field with big, explosive plays. With just the timing of everything, you better be on your game in Norv's system. In the west coast system, the terminology is a bit different, and just some of the checks and audibles you have. Most systems are similar to a degree."

On if he could even imagine not using a running game against them: "You never know what you are going to get into. Norv will watch the film, and he runs a different style of offense. Whoever he's facing, he'll find different ways to expose whatever defense he's playing."

On if there are things he learned under Norv that he uses today: "The biggest things are being decisive with the ball, getting back quick in my drop, and really just enjoying the game. It's not an opportunity that many people get to have and you have to make the most of that time you have wherever you are. He's been great with the organizations he has been with. He's won Super Bowls and what he did with Troy Aikman, to be able to watch what he did with his career is great for Alex Smith to be a part of that now. To take a young guy and really groom him over time, Alex is a lucky quarterback."

On if he can see things that Alex does that points directly to Norv's teachings: "I think Alex is having a great year so far. He's throwing the ball down field, and he's being decisive with it. San Francisco has played some really good teams this year, especially on the defensive side. I think he's handling and managing the game well. I think things got away from him last week, but in general I think he's playing some good football."

On if Brad Childress's system has any different wrinkles in it versus other West Coast systems he has been in: "If you look throughout the League, there are about 11, or 12 teams that use the west coast system. In general, the concepts are very similar in all systems, the terminology is kind of tough to grasp. Just being able to call the play in the huddle and get it down, but if you understand concepts, protections, and the route combinations you are going to be okay. Some systems in the west coast, like Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, has more shifts, motions, and audible checks. We use some of that, but Brad Childress is more down the field compared to Gruden."

On if the terminology from the Gruden system is the same under Childress: "There are some similarities, but there are some differences too, whether it's the names of the plays or the protections, or some of the philosophies that they have. As far as the formations and some of the protection calls, they are very similar."

On what he tries to do to keep control of the ball: "The big thing, and we all go through it, is that if the play is not there, run it, throw it away, and live for another play. You can punt it, and put it on your defense at different times. We all go through it, young and old quarterbacks, and the more consistent over the time the longer your career will be. I'm sure those are some of the learning phases he's going through right now."

On WR Marcus Robinson: "He's been a big playmaker for us this year. Obviously, sometimes the number of touches he gets hasn't been enough, but he's a proven player and he's like your security blanket when he's out there. He can go and get balls in the red zone area, and he's a pivotal part of what we're trying to do. He's out right now, and hopefully we can get him back to form pretty quick."


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