WR Johnson receives Pro Bowl training, advice

Vikings receiver Jaymar Johnson spent about three weeks earlier this month conditioning for the rigors of training camp and getting advice from a Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame cast of receivers. The one that made the biggest impact on him, Andre Rison, had some strong words of encouragement about Johnson's talents.

Jaymar Johnson is in a position of fighting for a roster spot, but the wide receiver took advantage of an opportunity to learn from some of the best receivers of the past 15 years before training camp ever started.

Johnson took part in his summer session at Larry Fitzgerald's conditioning camp at the University of Minnesota. While other players were out of town getting in their last vacation before the grind of the NFL season, Johnson was sweating it out in the Midwest heat.

Johnson found out about the conditioning advantage the camp gave him last year and decided it was an opportunity he didn't want to pass up again this year.

"One night (last year) we were just hanging out and I met him and he told me about the camp. The next day, I'm like, ‘I'm there.' Why would I miss an opportunity like this?" Johnson said of meeting Fitzgerald in Indianapolis in 2009. "When I went into camp, I was already in good condition, but once I came to the camp I was in great condition. I didn't tire none during training and none during the preseason, so it worked."

Perhaps an even greater advantage than the physical conditioning is the mental tutoring Johnson received from the likes of Cris Carter, Michael Irvin and Andre Rison.

"When Fitz called me and told me all the guys he was bringing in this year – like Andre Rison, Cris Carter, Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice was supposed to come back – I would have been a fool not to come take advantage of the opportunity to work out with them guys," Johnson said.

Carter, Rice and Irvin are receivers that used their physical presence to create separation from defensive backs. Johnson isn't a bigger receiver, so the advice he received from Andre Rison stuck with him the most.

"I think the one I relate to the most is Andre Rison because me and him are the same size. We have the same speed and whatnot. Michael Irvin (and Cris Carter), they're big bodies. They can just bully themselves around the field … but Andre Rison had to use his quickness," Johnson said. "He had to use his speed, and coming out of his breaks he had the same issues I had when he was a young receiver, or so he told me. So I think me and him are more hands-on as far as style of play as receiver."

Rison caught 743 passes for 10,205 and 84 touchdowns over his 12-year career with the Colts, Falcons, Browns, Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders … and one Super Bowl season in Green Bay spent with Brett Favre.

But when it comes to Jaymar Johnson, who has one career catch in two seasons with the Vikings, Rison had some strong words after seeing him work out earlier this month.

"I'll tell you what, Minnesota needs to use him. I'll say that much. He's got gifts. Naturally he's a burner. You can't take away God-given speed," Rison said. "Right now we're just working on his route-running and being disciplined – making sure he's getting depth on his routes. That's the thing with younger receivers – and I did it myself when I was young – they tend not to get the depth on their routes and it's a headache for coaches.

"I don't want that to be his block in his way for not getting on the field and being able to perform. But from what I've seen, he can play with anybody. Hopefully he'll get his chance. Minnesota has some great young receivers. Like I told him, I've played many games with Brett. I know Brett and Brett likes players that make plays and he likes players that can get open. I recall when I got to Green Bay, everybody was like, ‘Antonio Freeman couldn't do this and he couldn't do that. He couldn't do this.' I think me and Antonio did pretty decent, Super Bowl XXXI."

Johnson said he wants to be "twice as (good) as I was last year as far as my ability, as far as my mental part of the game, everything."

He'll get a chance to start showing that Friday afternoon during the team's first training camp practice.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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