But there was something else back in place within Johnson – his rib.
Many observers anticipated Johnson having a breakout season in 2015, his second year with the Minnesota Vikings, but a broken rib displaced him from the starting lineup and limited his availability and effectiveness for much of the season.
The injury happened when Johnson was tackled on top of someone else and the pain lingered throughout much of the season.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1673119-zimmer-praises-bridgewate... “It’s terrible. Initially when I did it in the game, I went back in the next series and I ran the first route and I was like, ‘What is this?’ And then I ran a deep go and they threw it to me and I ended up getting a (pass interference) called and I was like, ‘Something’s not right,’” he said. “I came off and when the doctor pushed on my ribs and it popped, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ That was kind of bad. And then every time when I was laying down and I would (make) certain movements it would be tight because you’d feel it pop out. It was bad. It was a rib injury and it takes your breath away. I’m better now. It’s part of the game.”
Johnson said there was a clicking the rib would make when he would run or jump last year.
During the season, he would often be at his locker and conducting interviews while sitting. He never let on with the extent of his injury at the time, not wanting to tip off the opponent to a weak spot and hoping to eventually get back to full health. Yet, even the little things in daily life were painful.
“It’s hard to smile, let alone do anything else. I tried to push through it if I could, but if I was running, certain movements it would keep coming out,” he said. “But, hey, it’s part of the game. You get injuries. We all know that. We’ve just got to fight and battle through it.”
In 2014, Johnson played in 12 games, starting six, and had 31 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns. He entered last year as the starter, but he ended with only four starts in 11 games played and was limited to nine catches for 127 yards. His anticipated breakout season was broken as badly as his rib.
His injury allowed for the emergence of then-rookie Stefon Diggs, but the more consistent winning for the Vikings was the only thing that took the sting out of his injury.
“I grew frustrated a little bit, as anyone would. I’m a competitor. I wanted to be out there, I wanted to help my team win and knowing I’m able to go out there and give them everything, I’ve got to produce,” he said. “It’s hard to be too frustrated when you’re winning games. That’s the biggest thing for me. We’re winning games and I’m happy. We went out there and won a lot of games. We’ve just got to continue to take steps, take those necessary approaches.”
At OTAs this week, he said his rib is 100 percent and he is getting back into football shape through the strength and conditioning program.
He was back in the starting lineup and part of an offense looking to stretch the field more often this year.
“Norv Turner’s offense is based off of that. I know we didn’t really go deep too much last year, but that’s what it’s base off and we’re going to stress that no matter what,” Johnson said. “We’re throwing a little more deeper balls and we’re just going to try to continue to get better at everything.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1673247-zimmer-getting-respect-na... This offseason, the Vikings released Mike Wallace and added Laquon Treadwell to the receiving corps with a first-round draft pick. It’s uncertain how that will affect the rotation at receiver. Certainly Treadwell will get his opportunities, along with Diggs, Johnson, Jarius Wright, Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson if the Vikings opt to keep six receivers on their 53-man roster in September.
But, no matter whom the Vikings have added, Johnson is confident in his abilities.
“This NFL is a revolving door and there’s going to be new people every day. I already knew somebody is going to be here eventually,” he said of his reaction to the Treadwell pick. “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not in competition with anybody else. I feel like everyone has to be in competition with me because I set my own standards. I’m not living up to anybody else’s standards; I’m living up to mine. They’re competing with me; I’m not so much competing with them. I’m competing with my own standard.”
Johnson likes to talk about how he “grinds” in offseason workouts but said he doesn’t set any personal statistical benchmarks as goals for the season. But now that he is back to full health, what kind of receiver can he be in 2016?
“Anything I want to be,” he said. “It’s my standard.”