"He's made a lot of progress and we're trying to figure out exactly where to play him at what position," said head coach Lovie Smith. "But we want our playmakers to make plays and he's trying to be a playmaker."
After two years in the league, Johnson failed to catch on with a team in 2004 and sat out the entire season. A receiver with average speed isn't a hot commodity, but Smith came to Johnson with the idea of playing tight end that could jumpstart his career.
"In the NFL, in any job, the more you can do, the more valuable you are to the team or to the organization," Johnson said. "I just think that gives me another dimension that a lot of other guys don't have."
In an attempt to get Johnson more reps, he could also line in the backfield as a halfback. He has been contributing on special teams, which makes him a more difficult cut, as the roster has to be trimmed down to 53.
The Bears lack an impact tight end on the roster. Johnson can't be an every down option because his frame will not allow him to be an inline blocker, but he's willing to do the dirty work if it means playing.
"As a receiver I always had to block safeties and linebackers sometimes on crack blocks," Johnson said. "Every once in a while I get a D-end so that's the hard work."
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris could practice Friday with a clear mind after learning that his cousin, Philadelphia Eagles DE Jerome McDougle, was recovering from gunshot wound to the stomach.
During an attempted robbery late Thursday in Miami, three armed assailants confronted McDougle, who was due in training camp on Monday. He was initially listed in critical condition but was upgraded to "good" following surgery.
Harris, who has lost cousins to similar circumstances in the past, is relieved to know McDougle will not suffer the same fate.
"There are ignorant people everywhere," said Harris, 22. "You just pray for those kind of people. That's just life. You've just got to play your cards. You're not always going to have a good hand. I'm just glad that God decided to keep him here. He's fine."
The Bears rested LB Brian Urlacher and CB Jerry Azumah, who are both expected to practice today. Hunter Hillenmeyer (concussion), Dustin Lyman (ankle) and WR Kareem Kelly (hamstring) were all held out of action.
The Bears are giving a former draft pick another chance to prove his worth. The team claimed linebacker Leon Joe off waivers from Arizona on Friday. Chicago took Joe in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He lasted just one game into the regular season before being waived. The 6-1, 235-pounder spent the remainder of his rookie season with the Cardinals, playing in four games while being inactive for 11 contests.
To make room for Joe, the Bears waived defensive tackle Greg Pauly, who signed as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame.