D.J. Gets What He Deserves … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

Just about everybody that climbs the football ladder and makes it all the way to the NFL has skill. Webster defines the word “skill” as having a particular ability.

But not everybody in pro football has talent. Webby defines the word “talent” as having special aptitude or ability.

In the mind of the current Chiefs regime, Derrick Johnson has always had ability. But it’s only in the last year that he’s shown a special aptitude for playing linebacker. That’s the major reason they’ve agreed to a five-year contract extension with Johnson, signing him to a deal that with all the incentives and bonuses could pay him as much as $34 million and includes $15 million in guaranteed money.

That the relationship between Johnson and the Chiefs would take this turn has to be one of the major upsets of the 2010 season. A year ago, Johnson couldn’t get on the field in the team’s regular defense. He was relegated to working strictly in the nickel defense and occasional snaps on special teams. After four seasons as a starter for the Chiefs defense, he was off the No. 1 unit.

“Last year was not a negative year for Derrick Johnson in my opinion,” said head coach Todd Haley.

That’s easy for Haley to say, because he was the guy dealing the heat to Johnson. But as we continue to discover, there was a method to the head coach’s approach, and the way he handled D.J. was not without merit or reason.


“I think from day one that I came into this building, Derrick was somebody that had a reputation of being a big-time college player,” Haley said. “He is a guy that has a great amount of ability, a great amount of skill and he is starting to turn that into talent.

“If you just have skill and you don’t have the other things, the discipline, the will to fight through, the will to win, the will to be great, then skill sometimes can be wasted.”

It wasn’t so much that in the first four years of his career Johnson wasted his skill. He just never got the production out of that ability that would raise him to the level of being a talented player. In 59 games (2005-08) Johnson had 12 sacks, three interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles. That’s 28 big plays in 59 games.

Coming out of the University of Texas as the 15th player taken in the 2005 NFL Draft, more was expected by Chiefs coaches and the personnel department. In 50 games with the Longhorns and 40 starts, he had 36.5 big plays. That’s what attracted the NFL to him.

But at Texas, he was pretty much allowed to free-lance in the defense, especially in his senior season when his defensive coordinator was Greg Robinson. He was the player with great skill, who relied on that.

Again, the NFL is filled with skillful players. Every day, the waiver wire carries the names of players who are among the best athletes that can be found in professional sports, but in some fashion they are found wanting.

That’s what Haley and his staff discovered with Johnson. He didn’t attack the job with a bad attitude; it just wasn’t a good attitude. It’s not that he didn’t do physical training in the off-season; it just wasn’t enough. His body was always breaking down, especially with upper leg muscle pulls, problems with hamstring, groin and his quads were a constant struggle. It kept him off the practice field, when what he needed was all the practice he could get.

Something had to change, just as it had to change with another Johnson in that locker room – RB Larry Johnson. After a half-season with the Chiefs new regime, Johnson finally showed he wasn’t able to handle the change in atmosphere, and he was suspended and eventually released

Right now, L.J. continues to sit outside the NFL after being released by the Washington Redskins. And, D.J. was able to handle the situation and change.

“The guys that were here last year, there were some major changes going on and some guys were able to handle it, some guys weren’t,” Haley said. “Derrick was one of the guys that was able to handle it. I don’t know that he was ever healthy but he found ways to get out on the practice field once he realized that was what was going to be expected. Nobody was going to feel really good but we had to be out there practicing and working hard to get better and he learned more and more about how we were going to play defense and he did nothing but grow last year.”

Haley frequently talks about how as bad as last year was for the Chiefs, among both the players and the coaches, it was a necessary step to putting the team on the track he felt necessary to achieve success.

Derrick Johnson is the perfect example of that. Haley wanted more and Johnson’s life was pretty frustrating and sometimes downright miserable as he went through that process. But he adjusted, he learned, he changed.

“His is a mindset to be part of something special, to be a great teammate and to be a great player,” Haley said. “I think he is trying to do that and I think he has done nothing but get better. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s getting better each and every week. Derrick has clearly been a big reason behind us starting to play better football.”

He’s the leading tackler with 79 total tackles, or 15 more than anybody else on the team. He has four tackles for minus yards; that’s half a tackle less than OLB Tamba Hali. He’s forced a team-high three fumbles. D.J. returned his only interception for a touchdown and only starting CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr have defended more passes.

He is no longer just skilled. He is now a talent, on the field and at the pay window.


  • BENGALS – released TE J.P. Foschi; signed TE Chase Coffman off their practice squad.
  • BRONCOS – signed TE Daniel Coats, last with Bengals; released DE Le Kevin Smith.
  • CARDINALS – placed DE Kenny Iwebema on the injured-reserve list (knee) ending his season; signed LB Cyril Obiozor off the Chargers practice squad.
  • COLTS – released DB Deshea Townsend.
  • COWBOYS – re-signed DL Jeremy Clark.
  • DOLPHINS – signed OT Matt Kopa off the 49ers practice squad; released OT Patrick Brown.
  • GIANTS – released WR Sinorice Moss with injury settlement; activated OL Kevin Boothe from the reserve/PUP list; signed LS Zak DeOssie to a new 3-year, $3.3 million contract, with a $542,000 signing bonus; signed OL Adam Koets to a new 3-year contract for $3 million with a $360,000 signing bonus and then he was injured Sunday against Seattle and is out for the season.
  • JAGUARS – signed CB Terrence Wheatley, last with Patriots; signed OT Adam Terry, formerly with Chargers; signed WR John Matthews off their practice squad; released QB Todd Bouman, OT Erik Pears and DT Landon Cohen.
  • LIONS – signed K Dave Rayner, last with Bengals; claimed QB Zac Robinson off waivers from the Seahawks; released CB Jonathan Wade and C Cody Wallace.
  • PACKERS – released CB Al Harris and LB Rob Francois; activated RB James Starks from the reserve/PUP list.
  • PANTHERS – placed OT Jeff Otah (knee), QB Matt Moore (shoulder) and LB Dan Connor (hip) on the injured reserve list, ending their seasons; re-signed RB Josh Vaughan and LB Abdul Hodge; claimed RB Andre Brown off waivers from the Colts.
  • PATRIOTS – signed K Shayne Graham, formerly with the Ravens and Bengals; signed LS Matt Katula, last with the Ravens; released LS Jake Ingram.
  • SEAHAWKS – activated DB Josh Pinkard from the reserve/non-football injury list; released QB Zac Robinson and OT Breno Giacomini.
  • TITANS – signed DL Marques Douglas, last with the Dolphins; released DT Amon Gordon.

3 Responses to “D.J. Gets What He Deserves … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • November 10, 2010  - Edward says:

    Good to see DJ get paid. Media and fans heavily criticize Haley for his methods of benching DJ and only bringing him in subpackages last yr. Most media and fans wanted Haley to start this guy like the last 2 head coaches did because he possed that skill. I applaud Haley for not following the status quo because that was the main reason DJ up until this point never lived up to his potential. FRom his time as a rookie this guy was wildly inconsistent. Some games you’ll see flashes of his skill other games you wouldn’t even notice him on the field. I give Haley alot of credit for getting the most out of this guy hopefully he can do the same with Dwayne Bowe.

  • November 10, 2010  - JohnNdallas says:

    Lets hope DJ has had a true change in his approach to the game, that this year wasn’t just an attempt to get paid.

    Haley gets a huge amount of the credit for Johnson’s performance imo. Haley let Johnson know that one or two good games a year wasn’t going to be acceptable. Now that DJ got paid, the question is can he keep DJ motivated.

    Kudos Coach!

  • November 10, 2010  - Edward says:

    John I think he probably will just because this is the NFL you can get released no matter the contract. Ask Chambers after this season or either when Mcluster comes back.

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