"It's definitely a clean slate," Johnson said. "I was here the whole offseason. I dropped about 20 pounds. I think I had a really good offseason."
Johnson hopes the coaching staff continues to see his maturity.
"Actions speak louder than words," Johnson said. "Being here all offseason and being consistent with more maturity, I think they see that I'm a different player. I think it'll be apparent in training camp."
To refresh your memory, Johnson, whom the Oakland Raiders drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, fell out of favor with the coaching staff and spent the first half of the season street clothes.
Johnson felt that his demotion and drop to No. 4 on the depth chart was due to his attending a Nike sponsored trip to China in the off-season during a time when the team was having an OTA (organized team activity).
If there was a connection, it was minor. However, it is somewhat common knowledge that Johnson's antics in the first pre-season game in San Francisco had more to do with it. Upon making a big play, Johnson's theatrics – an exaggerated first down signal, doing pushups -- miffed coaches.
Johnson, however, responded with a solid second half and showed the promise that the coaches anticipated. Courtney Anderson is the projected starter with Johnson pushing him.
"All I can worry about is what I can control and that's my play and my attitude," Johnson said. "If I end up as the starter, I'm going to contribute in whatever way I can. It'll all play itself out. It's all about making plays when your opportunity comes. I think I did that last season when I was given the opportunity."
Johnson has spent his three-year career by making the transition from college wide receiver to NFL tight end. In addition, Johnson left school after his sophomore campaign so the 2005 season would have been his rookie year had he stayed in school all four years.
The fact that Johnson opted to lose 20 pounds over the offseason is somewhat compelling because conventional wisdom suggests that being stronger to absorb the pounding as a blocker would be more prudent.
"It was more about getting faster and slimming down to playing the whole game," Johnson said. "I think I'm a better player at this weight."
As long as it's not the weight of the coaching staff.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org