Ravens sign Patrick Johnson

OWINGS MILLS - In a transaction that infuses familiarity and speed into the Ravens' stagnant passing game, Baltimore signed wide receiver Patrick Johnson on Monday to a one-year contract. <br><br> The Ravens drafted Johnson in the second round in 1998 because of his world-class speed. However, inconsistent hands and health have caused him to journey around the NFL and hastened his departure from Baltimore three years ago.

In four seasons with the Ravens after being drafted out of Oregon, Johnson caught 58 passes for 898 yards and seven touchdowns.

"I've learned how to be more of a wide receiver than just a deep threat," said Johnson, who finished ahead of Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis in a 100-meter dash with a time of 10.26 seconds at the 1995 Drake Relays. "I've become a better receiver all-around. I don't know what my role is going to be."

Johnson's last stop was with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he broke his hand before being waived Sept. 2 in an injury settlement. The Ravens and Johnson maintain that he's healthy now, although unlikely to do much, if anything, Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"I wouldn't be ready to go a whole game, but I'm sure I could contribute on special teams," Johnson said. "I'm familiar with the offense. Some wrinkles are slightly different."
Johnson still has his trademark speed and some knowledge of the Ravens' playbook, but needs to get into optimum condition.

"Man, he can fly," quarterback Kyle Boller said after his first throwing session with Johnson.

The Ravens weren't required to cut anyone to add Johnson because running back Jamal Lewis doesn't count against the roster during his two-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.

Prior to his stint with the Bengals, Johnson played 16 games for the Washington Redskins in 2003. He caught 15 passes and led the team with a 28.3 kickoff return average. In 2002, Johnson played for Jacksonville and suffered an abdomen injury after seven starts.

"He gives us that deep threat that, in conjunction with our running game, hopefully we can stretch the defenses a little bit," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's good to have 'The Tasmanian Devil' back. Patrick has that great speed, and they have to consider it. Now, how long until Patrick can show up? We'll see."

After being let go by Cincinnati, Johnson spent his time running his consulting company and trying to stay in shape.

In seven seasons, Johnson has missed games for a broken hand, an aching abdomen, fractured left clavicle, broken collarbone, a calf injury and other ailments.

Johnson, 28, has played for four teams, three in the last three years.

"Bouncing around isn't always good," Johnson said. "I wasn't mature enough to handle certain situations. The grass isn't always greener."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and RavensInsider.Com

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