Johnson licking his chops

Joe Johnson has only been in Green Bay a matter of weeks, but he already is envisioning heights that he never reached in eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints. The newly acquired defensive end says he can make a good Packers defense even better. But it's the Green Bay offense that has him eyeing a double-digit sack season.<p>

Johnson, entering his ninth season, had nine sacks last season, when he played 13 games with a torn left triceps. He had 12 sacks in 2000 with the Saints when he was named to the Pro Bowl squad, and has displayed an ability to defend well against the run.

With Brett Favre at quarterback, Ahman Green carrying the ball and a revamped receiving corp, Johnson feels that the Packers defense will thrive.

"I think we can equal and surpass the success we've had in New Orleans as far as the sacks are concerned," Johnson says. "But I think in New Orleans, as we all know the defensive players and talent that has been in New Orleans over the years on the defensive side of the ball has been extreme. I think you have to pay attention to that and understand that a lot of that was the talent. "Here, in that same element, you kind of have the opposite but that is more easily correctable. Here over the past you've had more athletes and more talent on offense. It's more of an offensive tradition as opposed to a defensive tradition. As a defensive player, that's the type of situation you actually want to come into. Because as a defensive player, it's totally easy to play defense when you always have a lead. For me and the rest of my teammates on defense, it's going to be fun. Anytime you come into a game and you're up 7, 14, 21 points early, anyone can play defense then."

The Packers finished with a team-record 52 sacks last season. Johnson will play opposite Vonnie Holliday. Both could be moved inside on passing downs to make way for Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (13.5 sacks last year) and Jamal Reynolds, the 10th overall pick of the draft last year. The Packers released veteran defensive tackle Santana Dotson in February, but re-signed defensive tackle Gilbert Brown and drafted defensive lineman Aaron Kampman out of the University of Iowa. The Packers also are high on two younger defensive tackles – Rod Walker and Steve Warren, who missed last year recovering from a quadriceps injury.

Johnson has some mileage on him, but the Packers obviously feel that he has at least three good years left in him. He was named Comeback Player of the Year after missing the entire 1999 season with a knee injury.

"I believe I still have a lot to offer to this game as well as to this organization and definitely intend on showing that. A lot of people say once you hit 30 you start going downhill as far as an NFL player, but I feel different about the situation. As each year goes on, I feel better and better physically as well as better and better mentally. Michael Jordan said it best, ‘The longer you play and the more experienced you've become, the game slows down.' The basket is not as small as it used to be for me, it's a lot bigger now for me. I think the knowledge and the experience as well as the physical condition that I continue to keep myself in, I still have better years to offer than what I've shown in the past."

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