Colts Q&A With Charlie Johnson

Second-year offensive tackle Charlie Johnson was thrust into the starter's role at left tackle a few weeks ago when rookie Tony Ugoh injured his neck. He talked to's Ed Thompson about his interesting season, his injury, a former college teammate who was just added to the 53-man roster, and more.

Ed Thompson: You've had an interesting season so far.  What's this season been like for you personally?

Charlie Johnson: It's kind of gone the way I thought it would. I came into the season as a backup and I'm unfortunately getting to play because of injuries, which I don't necessarily like, but it's a chance for me to play. I'm just trying to do what I can to help this team be successful, and that was my role coming in — to play when needed and play the best I could.

Thompson: How big of a shock was Tarik Glenn's retirement to you right before training camp?

Johnson: My eyebrows went up a little bit when I heard the news. I didn't have any idea that he was even thinking about it. But it's a decision that he made and that was probably the best thing for him. It was a pleasure for me to be able to spend a year with him and learn from him. I hope only success for him.

Thompson: How big of a change is it to move from right tackle to left tackle like you've had to do this year?

Johnson: The techniques are the same, but you have to flip the footwork from what you would do on the right and do it backwards — I guess that would be the best way to explain it. But with this team and this offense, right tackle or left tackle, you're expected to do a job and that job is to keep Peyton (Manning) clean and to help us run the ball. I just try to go out and do that.

Thompson: Did you get much time or many reps at left tackle before being sent in there?

Johnson: Since the regular season started, I would rotate in at both to get a good feel in case something did happen. It's probably not very many actual reps though. The starters take most of the reps in practice.  But I would go in there and rotate a couple plays in practice. As far as playing on the left side, I didn't really get that many snaps before I started playing.

Thompson: How challenging is it to line up next to a different guy on the line and trying to get the chemistry going with him?

Johnson: This year is the first time I actually got to play next to Ryan (Lilja). It took a little bit of time to figure out how we communicate with each other and how we do certain things, but once I got in there and started playing a lot, we bonded and now we're working pretty well together.

Charlie Johnson after the Super Bowl
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Thompson: What differences have you noticed in Jake Scott versus Ryan Lilja? They're both very talented, but is there any difference in lining up next to one rather than the other?

Johnson: Not really. Like you said, they're both great players, they both have a great knowledge of this offense and how things work. It actually helps me being able to play next to both of those guys because they've been starters for a while and they know the offense and they can help me out with some things.

Thompson: Are they similar personality-wise?

Johnson: They're pretty similar. They're similar about how they approach the game, how they study, and how they practice and play. 

Thompson: Tell us a little bit about your injury. What happened on the play?

Johnson: It was just one of those things. In the course of a play my feet got tangled up and someone stepped on me and rolled my ankle a little bit. Fortunately it wasn't too bad, I had to miss the rest of that one game. It still nags at me, but it's something where there wasn't any structural damage, so it's still okay to play on. It's just going to be kind of inconvenient for a while.

Thompson: How are everyone's spirits holding up as you guys have battled through injuries this season?

Johnson: Spirits are high. We know that we all have a job to do. And for us to get where we want to go, guys have to play. I can remember last year, being a rookie, and Coach Dungy giving us a speech about everybody needs to be prepared because you never know when your number is going to get called. I heard that speech and a couple weeks later I was in there playing.  So a lot of our guys have taken that mentality to be prepared and guys have stepped in and played well. Just as a team, we all know we can play better.

Thompson: You have a big challenge ahead of you in John Abraham if you line up on the left side again on Thursday night. What can you tell us about him?

Johnson: He's experienced, he's been to some Pro Bowls, so obviously he's a great player and he makes a lot of plays for them. It seems like every week you're getting a good guy, and this is another week and another quality guy. I have to prepare for him like I would any other week, even though I only have two days to do it, but just watch tape on him and see what he does and go from there.

Thompson: What have the Colts done during their short week?

Johnson: Today (Tuesday) was our normal Wednesday. We came in in the morning and had our normal meetings and our afternoon walkthrough and had our practice. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is going to be a little different. We still have to get a quality practice in and get our work done, but we also have to leave tomorrow. So it's going to be a little hectic trying to get the work done in the morning before we have to take off, but it's something we have to do. It's a short week for both teams. Going into this game there can't be any excuses, because they're going through the same things we are.

Thompson: How do you not get a little over-confident when you look at Atlanta's record and their loss to Tampa Bay last week — a team that the Colts beat handily earlier this year?

Johnson: As a professional player, you can't get caught up in that. For example, we saw Pittsburgh lose to the Jets who were 1–8 last week. People were saying the Jets weren't having a good year and Pittsburgh was on a roll going into that game. Taking someone lightly can lead to a loss. I'm not saying Pittsburgh did that, but you can't overlook anybody in this league. One of our coaches likes to say, "all of the players in this league are on a scholarship," — they're good, they wouldn't be here if they weren't. Everyone's competitive so you can't take games for granted in this league because wins are hard to come by.

Thompson: Tony Dungy said earlier this week during an interview that he didn't care if you guys won by just 2-0 in Atlanta. The goal is just to get a win this week and then take some time off and heal. Is that the outlook of the whole team this week — just get the win?

Johnson: Yeah, pretty much. Whatever we have to do to go down there and get a win, we need to do it. Short week, this and that, you can't use that as an excuse — you just have to go out and play. Whatever we have to do to go in there and get a win, get out, and get our days off, that's what we have to do.

Sixth-round draft pick Corey Hilliard during preseason action with the Patriots
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Thompson: Last weekend the Colts promoted offensive tackle Corey Hilliard from the practice squad out of Oklahoma State. What can you tell us about him?

Johnson: I played three years with Corey at Oklahoma State and we're pretty good friends. I've kind of taken him under my wing, so to speak, and I'm helping him out with the playbook and helping him learn the techniques we use here. He's been doing the practice squad stuff and hasn't really had a chance to do anything with our offense, but from what I've seen, he's trying to apply the techniques we use to his game and that's always good to see.

Thompson: What are his strengths as a tackle?

Johnson: He's a big guy, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6. He's a long-armed guy, and for a guy his size he's really athletic. He can move well, and those are all things that got him to this point — and will hopefully keep him up here. The thing about him is he has a great upside because he wants to learn and be able to do well.

Thompson: Did the Colts ask you anything about him prior to signing him since you played together?

Johnson: No not at all. One day I got a call from him saying, "I'm at the airport and I'm getting ready to come up to Indy." And it didn't hit me, so I said, "For what?" And he was like, "They signed me to the practice squad." So that was good to hear.

Thompson: Is there anything you'd like to say to the Colts fans as we wrap this interview up?

Johnson: Stay with us.  We'll make it, and as far as offense goes, we'll start playing better. Just stay with us and keep rooting us on as we keep going.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and are syndicated through You can contact him by email through this link.

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