Charles Johnson’s journey to his starting spot with the Minnesota Vikings has been well-chronicled. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers from Grand Valley State and then signed to their practice squad. He was then picked up by the Cleveland Browns and added to their active roster, but it was discovered he had a torn ACL and had to miss the entire 2013 season. Then he was signed to the Vikings active roster in September of 2014.
During all that bouncing around and sitting out due to injury, Johnson was never able to see the field during a game. Even with the Vikings he didn’t see the field until Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers. Having all that time off can make a player well-rested, but it also means that a player’s body is not used to the regular grind of an NFL season, and not accustomed to the punishment they have to take week in and week out.
Johnson has become one of Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite targets and has emerged as the No. 1 receiver on the team – being on the field for 291 snaps in the last five games. In total, he has played in 10 games this season and started five of them. With one more game to go his body is starting to feel the wear and tear from his first season seeing the field.
“(My body) is doing good, I mean you’re going to be banged up a little bit, but you try to stay on top of your maintenance,” Johnson said. “Getting in the cold tubs, getting some extra treatment, just doing things to get your legs right.”
His leg, or more specifically his knee, is still 100 percent. An ACL injury can be a tricky injury for a wide receiver as they rely on speed and making cuts, and it can take them a while to trust the repaired knee.
Johnson is seeing no problems with it saying, “It’s stable, it’s strong.”
Johnson has always had the mentality where he wants to help the team win, and he is never happy with his performance unless his team wins the game. The win is all that matters to him, and he still feels that way; even if he is banged up and tired he wants to be on the field to help out his team.
“For me, when you’re out there and going, you’re going to be tired,” Johnson said. “Even if I’m tired, won’t step off. I’m going to go full speed and not really think about it. But I will be tired between snaps and you’ll be able to tell sometimes, but once the ball is snapped it doesn’t really matter.”
For the season, he has 29 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s consistent. He makes plays when he gets the opportunity, he runs routes hard, he’s got speed so guys will get off of him when they need to, and he will run by them if they don’t,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Those are all good qualities. He lines up in the right place, he runs the right route. The offense has a lot of confidence in him.”
It shows what a tough guy Johnson is when he never wants to leave the field, no matter how tired or banged up he is. But he is not only physically tough, but mentally tough, too. It would be easy for him, or any other player, to have packed the season in once the Vikings were out of the playoff race, but he has continued to push to get better.
Johnson still wants to win every game, no matter what the team’s chances are. He actually admits to never following the playoff race and who is in it and who is not, he just wants to focus on that week’s game and getting a victory.
“I never followed if we were going to be in the playoffs or not,” Johnson said. “I take it as each game we got to win this game. That’s how I take it as. I don’t really look at the standings and who getting in and who’s not. I don’t know I just try to win each and every game.”
WR Johnson pushing through extended duty
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