Johnson Battling for Special Teams Time

Jaymar Johnson is hoping to make an impression on special teams in the Vikings' first preseason game of 2008. See what the wide receiver/return man had to say about his chances and his experiences in college.

As the Vikings' final pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Jaymar Johnson is hoping that his "special" abilities will help him earn a roster spot in a crowded receiving corps.

Right now, Johnson says he is second on the depth chart for punt returns behind Aundrae Allison and third on kickoff returns behind Allison and free-agent acquisition Maurice Hicks. That's in keeping with his experience from Jackson State, where he returned 43 punts and 23 kickoffs during his four-year collegiate career.

"I did kickoff returns in college, but they didn't kick it to me too much. They kicked it to me – what? – probably two times the whole season," Johnson said, referring to his sophomore season. The Tigers had two players back deep on kick returns, but they nearly always kicked to the other returner, Johnson said.

"I tried to switch with him and they'd kick it off to the other guy. They'd kick it to me on punt returns, but they wouldn't kick it to me on kick returns," he said.

Johnson had only six kickoff returns in his first two seasons at Jackson State (averaging 26 yards on two returns in 2005), but his final two seasons he had eight and nine kickoff returns, respectively.

During his sophomore season, he only got two returns – one in the season opener and the other in a playoff game – and both of them nearly went for touchdowns, he said.

"I only had one guy to beat on the opener, and then the last game before the championship game with Alcorn, I was on the 30 and he got me by this much (holding his thumb and finger close together) and pushed me out of bounds. They kicked it to me the first game and then I didn't get it again until the last game and I still almost took it to the house," Johnson said.

After two seasons with no punt returns, he became the main return man in 2006 and 2007, bringing back 19 punts for a 12.6-yard average as a junior and 24 for a 9.2-yard average as a senior.

He's confident that he'll do well Friday in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

"I think I'll do good," he said. "It's a lot different than in college. In college, you've got players that don't want to play special teams that block for you. In the NFL, you'd better block, so I'm kind of anxious to see how special teams in the NFL plays out."

Johnson also expects to get a decent amount of time on offense, where he is likely considered a roster-bubble player. He said he feels comfortable in the offense already but needs to work on the details, like if he should take an inside or outside release or block a cornerback or safety. The timing of the offense and the quarterbacks is something he's enjoying with the Vikings.

"Of course, it's a lot different than college, like if the ball gets there on time, which I'm not used to. The ball gets some heat behind it and it's perfect," Johnson said. "I can't complain. I like all the quarterbacks. They're all throwing on time to me."


  • The Vikings' Monday afternoon practice concentrated on special teams. The session was so exciting that Sidney Rice and Darren Sharper were engaged in a game of passing accuracy, seeing which one could hit the pylon from 25 yards away. For the record, Rice won the contest, hitting the pylon twice in eight tries. Sharper was unsuccessful in his attempts (and the fact that a reporter was documenting it might be an indication of the excitement level at the special teams practice). Several other players were trying to throw a ball into a garbage can from about the same distance.

  • About 500 fans attended the afternoon session, but most of the work was done on the middle field about 70 yards away from the bleachers.

  • Johnson and Darius Reynaud were the main punt returners for the session, but they were mostly there for the benefit of the gunners trying to down punts inside the 10-yard line.

  • Safety Eric Frampton and receiver Sidney Rice both attempted to keep the ball out of the end zone on one punt, and they made contact with each other while allowing the ball to get past them and into the end zone. However, each of them rebounded to individually stop ensuing punts from getting past the goal line.

  • Chris Kluwe got one punt to drop dead at the 2-yard line.

  • Vikings owners Zygi, Mark, Lenny and Jeffrey Wilf all attended the afternoon session.

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