Q&A with Tank Johnson

TheRanchReport.com visited with nose tackle Tank Johnson, who discussed a number of topics, ranging from this week's opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, to the emergence of rising star Jay Ratliff.

What lessons do you think this team learned in the last month, through the adversity?
Tank Johnson: It doesn't matter what you look like on paper, you've got to go out there and play the game. It doesn't matter who you're playing. You watch teams like the Rams, who struggled all season and they beat us, so you've got to come prepared every Sunday and we can accomplish our goals.

Is that the attitude going forward here?
Tank Johnson: I hope it's that we just set our jaw. It's going to be a fight the rest of the season, but I think a lot of these guys are up for the challenge, and it's very exciting. I think we're figuring out how to play together as a team. I mean, we've got so much talent. There's only one football on offense, and on defense there's only so many guys making plays. We're just trying to get everybody involved, and once we do that, we're very dangerous.

How valuable is Jay Ratliff?
Tank Johnson: Jay Ratliff is extremely valuable — he's been playing at a level I don't think any other nose guard is playing at, and for him to be doing that at his weight (302) and his size (6-foot-4) … I think he has the best leverage in football, so I'm very proud of him.

What kind of shape are you in?
Tank Johnson: I'm in the best shape I've been in. I've been able to make plays the last couple of weeks, and that's huge, especially when you've got Jay Ratliff playing at such a high level. We're kind of like "Thunder and Lightning" — he just flies through the hole, and I'm kind of like the guy who's just the hammer, just a physical guy in the middle. It's been a great year playing with him.

Did you know him when you got here? Did you know his playing style?
Tank Johnson: I knew that he probably has the best leverage in football. With his size and strength, the way he uses his body is just tremendous.

(The 49ers) seem to have found a spark now with (Mike) Singletary as their coach. What do you remember about him as a player?
Tank Johnson: I grew up a very big fan of the '85 Bears team, and the Bears in general. I got a chance to play (for) Ron Rivera — he was my d-coordinator, so I know a lot about them. I know (Singletary) is a guy who's going to demand guys that play hard. No matter what, schematically, you've got going on, or in personnel, if you play hard, you can overcome a lot of stuff. So he's doing a good job, and those guys are playing hard. He played the game very hard, with a lot of intensity, so that's contagious — his players see that. That's what he's about, and he wants his players to be about what he's about, so that team will turn it around — I just sure as heck hope it's not against us.

How many defensive players did you know that grew up trying to imitate those eyes of Singletary?
Tank Johnson: Oh, that's one of a kind. I think he played the game with such passion and emotion, and me growing up a lifelong Bears fan, from Gary, Ind., I just thought he was the greatest — him and The Fridge (William Perry).

His methods have been a little controversial so far — he kicked a player off during a game, he supposedly dropped his pants to prove a point in the locker room — have you ever had a coach take extreme measures like that?
Tank Johnson: Whatever you've got to do to motivate your players, you do. That's his ship, he's driving it, and whatever it takes to get his ship pointed in the right direction I think he'll do. You've got to trust a head coach like that, and you've got to hope that he has the team's best interests. When you've got a young team, an immature team, you've got to do what you've got to do.

(San Francisco running back) Frank Gore — how dangerous is he?
Tank Johnson: He's a typical Miami back. He's from "The U" and he's just like (Washington running back) Clinton Portis and the rest of those guys. He's very, very good. He's very explosive, and he knows how to run the ball downhill and how to break free. He's having a heck of a year, and I've had the pleasure of playing against him a few times — I just hope he doesn't have a good day against us. He does it all — like I said, he's a typical "U" back. He's powerful, he's strong, he's quick and he gets downhill in a hurry. He's a good back.

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