If you’re an NFL player approaching the age of 32, it’s safe to say you’re about done in this league. That might be true for most players but that’s not the case for Kansas City Chiefs Linebacker, Derrick Johnson.
Entering his tenth NFL season DJ, as he’s referred to by most fans, has never wavered in his ability to make plays. In fact, even when things go bad, he never makes excuses as a player. Instead, he tells anyone within shouting distance, he needed to do more on the field.
Those players are few and far between in the NFL so we better appreciate DJ for as long as he remains in a Chiefs uniform. But he can’t do all himself. If this defense is going to show off it’s Pro Bowl talent, everyone has to do there part equally.
Heading into the 2014 season, DJ will be surrounded by some new faces on defense including fellow linebacker, Joe Mays. The former Houston Texan came to the Chiefs in free agency and DJ knows all to well the importance of having another thumper lining up next to him.
“Joe brings communication to the game, physicality to the game. He’s a very smart player,” Johnson stated about Mays.
“I know, being in this league 10 years, change is (imminent). Every year, there is going to be change. We don’t control what goes on upstairs. When a new guy comes in – old or new – we have to get him acclimated to the system. Every guy that’s come in, it hasn’t been a big problem.”
The one thing that’s hurt Johnson the last several years has been the Chiefs inability to find another inside linebacker that can do some of things DJ can do on the field. They finally have that, not only in Mays, but second year man, Nico Johnson.
For Mays though, he loves playing along side Derrick Johnson and understands the importance of getting on the same page with him defensively.
“It’s been great so far. Me being able to pick his brain, seeing what he sees on the field, talking to him, communicating with him. It’s been great. He’s been just a big time playmaker. Now, I’m trying to pick his brain so I can get the chance to be where he’s at. Doing things that he’s been doing on the field and bring my style of play to the team as well,” Mays said about DJ.
The overall success of this unit will be determined on how well they attack the line of scrimmage. In fact, with the defensive line already looking like a force and the linebackers themselves among the divisions best; it might boil down to the play of the Chiefs secondary.
It’s a given this years secondary is going to look far different come opening day then it did a year ago. For Johnson, he’s not worried about the new bodies behind him.
“The NFL is about change. Depending on personnel, you have a lot of young guys. There are opportunities to take some spots in the secondary that are open. Competition brings out the best in them. By the time the fourth preseason game (comes), I’m sure they will have a lot of evaluated tape and we’ll get the right guys in,” DJ said.
Still you have to wonder how much longer he can keep up the All Pro pace. I’ve stated this before he reminds me a lot of former Chiefs Linebacker, Donnie Edwards, who was very productive in his 30’s.
Still there is no escaping father time in the NFL because at some point he always gets his man. So does he think about hanging up those cleats anytime soon?
“First of all, I’m 31 – I’ll be 32 soon. No, it hasn’t crossed my mind. I’ve been fortunate and blessed not to have a major injury. Every year, when I go back to work out with Jamaal (Charles) and all of these guys – if I can keep up with these guys, I can come back,” Johnson stated.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not ready for day off on Tuesday with the rest of his teammates.
”I was feeling my age a little bit early in practice, but I got through,” Johnson said.
HC Andy Reid - “He needs to keep being Chase Daniel. Keep being himself and playing the way he plays. He’s a competitive guy, and he makes plays. He did play well in the San Diego game, so he’s a good football player.”
RB De’Anthony Thomas - “I just feel like I am a contributor. Wherever the coach puts me, I just am going to go out there, work hard and make plays.”
LB Joe Mays - “Bubble bath. Bubble bath sounds nice, but I think I’m just going to try and relax, get off my feet, definitely hit the cold tub and try to spend as much time with my family as I can.”
Photos: Cory Edmonson (1) & John Rieger (2) USA Today Sports
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Can DJ play at the same level in his 10th NFL season?
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