Q&A with Tank Johnson

Lake Forest - There were times in training camp last year that Tank Johnson appeared ready to be a starter as a rookie, but even he admits he wasn't fully prepared for the grind of an NFL season.

Johnson appeared in 16 games as a rookie, including one start. He finished with 26 tackles and a half of a sack. He hopes to improve upon those numbers in his second season with the Bears.

The six-foot-3, 300-pounder took the time to talk about his role in the defense.

Are you ready to take the next step?
"Definitely, I think coming into camp in shape this year helped me out a lot. Just being able to go hard all the time has made all the difference."

What is it like to work with another young defensive tackle like Tommie Harris?
"He's fun to work with, he makes a lot of our jobs easier cause in his second year he's already getting double-teamed. The guys that play nose (guard) we're getting singled blocker already so it's actually pretty fun playing with him."

How much have you learned over the past year?
"Just compared to last year, it just seemed like last year was so long because my body wasn't prepared for it. It was such a long season and now training in the off-season just helped me out to prepare for camp. Training camp, even though we took a lot of practices off (compared to last year), it was a lot easier for me this year."

Are you ready to have a breakout year?
"I plan on doing the best I can. I'm sure with my abilities it will be recognized by someone somewhere so I'm just trying to do that."

There doesn't appear to be much of a drop off between the starters and backups at defensive tackle.
"We have a rotation right now where interior wise (we're) four deep. We can compete and get after them so it's actually a pretty good rotation."

Was the performance against the Colts a preview of what is to come for the defense?
"It was great. We expect it of ourselves. We know what we have and as you mature in this defense the second time around, like a year later we're a year greater than we were last year. We feel good about each other and we push each other. We compete at pretty much everything so it's a situation where you don't want to (let the other guys down). If Tommie or Ian (Scott) makes a play then me and (Alfonso) Boone make a play. It's just one of those feelings that you've got to have."

Was it difficult watching Tommie Harris contribute as a rookie, while you played more of a reserve role?
"Yeah but reality sets in, you realize that he was more prepared than I was and that's not necessarily the end of the world because as long as I don't get hurt I'm going to have my chance to get better. I learned a lot from him, playing and I learned a lot last year and I wouldn't trade that experience for nothing."

How was Tommie more prepared?
"He was lighter, he was more his weight and I was a little heavy coming in. So it was a situation where he had more to give than I did as far as stamina wise."

Do you feel you're competing for a starting job with Ian Scott?
"Definitely, we compete everyday. Practice, games, we're competing to keep that spot. And that's the hard thing about this league, it's like no matter how well you're doing someone is always scratching at your heels for a position, so you can never get too comfortable in your position in this league."

What are your goals for 2005?
"Just to make plays. To be around the ball, make the referee blow the whistle. I want to end a lot of plays this year with me on top of the running back or the quarterback. My goal is to make the ref blow the whistle this year."

Does it usually take defensive tackles longer to develop?
"Last year at times I felt like I was standing on the freeway watching cars go by and now this year I feel like I'm actually out there driving with them, so it's cool."

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