Life after the NFL is proving difficult for former Tampa Bay Buccaners quarterback Brad Johnson. In an interview with USA Today, Johnson, who played for the Bucs from 2001 to 2004, described how hard simple acts such as walking can be.
“I go down one step at a time with two feet. One step. One step. One step,” Johnson said to USA Today’s Robert Klemko from Athens, Ga. “My 73-year-old dad was visiting and I told my son to help him get his suitcases up the steps. He walks slow and he’s got a bad knee. He starts walking and my son turns to me and he says, ‘Dad, he walks just like you.’ I never thought it would be like this.”
Johnson, 44, detailed the stresses of life after leaving the NFL. He retired in 2008 after 17 seasons in the league. In addition to playing for the Bucs, who won a Super Bowl with him in January 2003, he was part of the Minnesota Vikings (twice), Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
Johnson talked openly about using the painkiller Toradol, a non-narcotic commonly used in operating rooms, as early as 2002. He said the drug was needed to dull pain from tendonitis in his right elbow and shoulder, in addition to managing discomfort from three severe injuries.
“I didn’t think I could play without it,” Johnson told USA Today. “It wasn’t an addiction — I don’t even take Advil now. It was like, ‘I’m so sore, I don’t know if I can actually play.’ I felt like I had to have it to play.”
Johnson started 125 games in his career and threw for 3,000 yards or more in five seasons. Also in the piece, former Bucs offensive tackle Roman Oben, now retired as well, said half of Tampa Bay’s starters took Toradol shots, including himself.
“We were an older team,” Oben told USA Today. “We did what we had to do to win. We don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us. We signed up for it.”
Johnson said he’s happier away from the game, with his wife, Nikki, and family. He mentors young quarterbacks and coaches his sons, ages 10 and 12, in football and basketball.