Johnson healed, participating in Lions' OTA practices
MAY 28, 2014 2:04p ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson is healed up after a difficult season physically for him in 2013.
He's participating in the Detroit Lions' current OTA practices after undergoing off-season knee surgery and a procedure to fix a finger injury.
"I feel pretty good right now," Johnson said Wednesday. "I'm out here working, taking all my reps for the most part.
"Knee's feeling good, hand's feeling good. I can't complain."
The question is whether he can stay healthy once the season begins in September. Knee injuries have hampered him the last couple years and could be an issue to watch going forward after seven years in the NFL.
His injuries forced him to miss two games last season, one of which was a meaningless Week 17 finale after the Lions had been eliminated.
Johnson went from 122 receptions for 1,964 yards in 2012 to 84 catches and 1,492 yards last season, although his touchdowns did increase considerably from five to 12.
"It was bad enough where I had to get it drained every week," Johnson said, finally confirming the extent of the knee injury after downplaying it much of the time during the season. "The finger, it was stuck at 90 degrees. It's good to have those things freed up right now."
Johnson is not only hoping he can play all 16 games this coming season, but that he also will be available on a regular basis for practice.
He sat out most of the time during the week just so he could manage to play on Sundays.
"It hurts because you kind of lose your wind a little bit," Johnson said of missing so many practices. "You know the plays, but I feel you have to go out there and practice to be able to play at your best.
"I'm a firm believer in that. I had experience in the offense. Therefore, I was able to go out there and still play. But I'm a firm believer in being out there during the week definitely improves your performance on Sunday."
Johnson, like the rest of the offensive players, is adjusting to a new system after the coaching change.
The offense is believed to be a mixture of what coordinator Joe Lombardi brought from New Orleans, where he was the quarterbacks coach, along with aspects of the offenses run by head coach Jim Caldwell in both Indianapolis and Baltimore in recent years.
Johnson called it a "totally different playbook" from what the Lions had been using under former coordinator Scott Linehan.
“It was bad enough where I had to get it drained every week.”
"It's not the same as last year by any means," Johnson said. "I guess I can say the only similarity is you'll see me in different positions within the offense.
"I love it because we can run one play out of so many different looks. That goes for every play that we have. It's so much variety."
Lombardi plans to make the most of the amazing weapon he's inheriting in Megatron.
The new coordinator even admitted to a bit of an awe factor in seeing Johnson's athleticism on a daily basis for the first time.
"You've got to be careful not to be a fan when you're watching him," Lombardi said. "It's really unbelievable when you see him in person, just how big and strong and fast he is."
If only he could stay as healthy as he is in May when it comes to November and December.
The Lions' defense is taking advantage of the offense going through this transformation right now.
Lombardi, however, is most concerned at that point with how players are lining up and learning their assignments.
"I know that these plays work," Lombardi said. "I know that the offense we're developing will work."
What irked him Wednesday were some of the dropped passes.
"The drops start to bother you after a while," Lombardi said. "Today was a little sloppy, I'm not going to lie to you. I was getting a little angry today because (of) the drops, some of the alignments weren't what you want. It was really more of a concentration issue more than anything.
"They're still learning the offense. They're thinking 'Where do I line up, what's the depth of my route?' I think when they get more comfortable, their concentration will come up a little bit and we'll catch the ball better because they do have good hands."
NEW DANCE STEPS?
Stafford seemed amused there was interest in the type of footwork drills he's been doing. Much has been made during the off-season about him needing to improve his mechanics.
"It's not salsa dancing or anything crazy," Stafford said of the drills. "It's football, quarterback drills. It's just a different way of doing it and approaching it."