How Jimmy Johnson survived offseason

Editor’s Note: Jimmy Johnson, who recently turned 67, spent June and July as a member of the Espada tribe on "Survivor," which will begin airing on CBS this September 15.

I got into "Survivor" for a couple different reasons.

Number one, I loved the show. I watched it from day one.

I first applied to be a contestant six or seven years ago and went through the whole process with the video application and didn’t get selected. And then three years ago, I tried again and went through the whole process, down to taking the physical, to where I thought I was going to go to Gabon, Africa. But then the doctor for "Survivor" found I had a one blocked artery and another artery 70 percent blocked and the doctor said, “Coach, we would love to have you on the show, but you better go see your cardiologist.”

I had a stent put in a week later. I lost 30 pounds, got on a workout routine and my cholesterol went from 220 to under 100. I started eating right. So in a lot of ways "Survivor" probably saved my life. So after getting in such great shape, I decided to apply again and finally got accepted. It was almost like destiny that had to be on "Survivor."

I got into it, not so much for the money — I don’t need the money — I got into it for the adventure. Now, after having competed on Survivor, I must tell you I did get my adventure. But it was so much more difficult than I ever, ever thought it would be.

And the way I relay it to other people — I mean my friends have asked me, did I have fun? And I really have to think about it. I hesitate because how can I say I had fun? But it was an adventure.

I’m glad I did it. I’m really happy that I did it. But I tell people in football that two-a-day practices are taxing, physically demanding. But at least at the end of the day you have a good night’s rest and you have food in your stomach and plenty of water to drink.

Now put yourself in a very hostile environment, where you have to build your own shelter in pouring-down rain. I mean, your clothes are always wet and your feet are dirty and sandy. You have to boil your water all the time so you really aren’t getting enough water to drink. I always felt like I was dehydrated.

You have no food in your stomach because you are eating less than 100 calories a day and you get absolutely no sleep. Now I had to go search for firewood and everything is so physically demanding. That’s why it was so much tougher than anything I’ve ever been through.

In my whole life, I never missed a minute of "Survivor." And even though I do TiVo it, "Survivor" and sporting events are really the only things I will watch on TV in real time. I can’t wait for "Survivor" to be on and this year’s show will be the same for me.

I can’t talk about how the show finishes, but I really enjoyed the other tribe members. The show does such a great job of screening all the applicants. Over 100,000 people a year apply, and I found it amazing how well they pick the people. As you can imagine, all the people are so competitive. There are marathon runners, triathletes and even an internet executive that three or four times a summer would swim to Alcatraz and back from San Francisco. So, they are all physically fit. It was enjoyable being will all of the other tribe members.

I guess my attraction to Survivor started as a kid, growing up in Port Arthur, Texas. I had these ideas of one day going to live in the Amazon. I was fascinated about maybe living in that part of the world for a short period of time. I loved the outdoors and watching the nature shows on television as young teenager. I loved that type of thing. But then I became a football player and then a coach, so I was never able to live out my dream of going to the Amazon.

So when I did get enough money to be able to do anything in the whole world, people would ask me when I was taking off for the Amazon. Well, "Survivor" wasn’t the Amazon, but it was something comparable. So, this was like accomplishing something I wanted to do all my life.

Well, enough about my summer vacation; it’s time to talk a little football. We just had our NFL on FOX seminar and being around the guys and everyone who works on the telecasts, well, it gets you excited about the season.

First, I’m really anxious to see the NFC East and see how all these moves are going to turn out. It has a lot to do with the Washington Redskins, Donovan McNabb, Mike Shanahan and all that. With Mike going to Washington, all of a sudden the Redskins are in the picture again.

Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia; I want to see how the new Eagles quarterback plays out. I know they are very high on him. Athletically, he can run and he can throw. You never can tell, with McNabb leaving and Kolb there, Andy Reid may be really able to utilize Michael Vick. When you have a prima donna quarterback – nothing negative against McNabb now – but he was an established quarterback, it’s hard there to have another guy like Vick there taking snaps from him in practice and in the game.

And that’s what they had last year. But with a new, young quarterback, the Eagles don’t have the handcuffs in regard to using Vick now. I believe Vick is going to get some action. He is back healthy and he’s definitely got the fast legs back. It will be interesting.

Now everybody is saying the Cowboys are the most talented team in all of football. But can they put it all together and be the first team to host the Super Bowl? Obviously, the East is the one division I’m most interested in.

In Minnesota, you have the Brett Favre situation. When a team has success like they did last year, the thing you have to fight the next year – and I talked about this with Bill Belichick after he won his first Super Bowl – is how it affects the other players and everyone on your football team. I get a sense that a lot of people in the Vikings organization are asking “What about me? I didn’t get my accolades. I didn’t get my money. I want a new contract. How about me? Can you treat me this way? Can you treat me special?"

And that’s the danger the Vikings have this year. I’m already seeing it in preseason. Brett Favre, I think last year was the honeymoon, everybody dealt with it. The second year, "I know Brett’s great, but how about me?" That is the danger the Vikings are dealing with now.

I’m looking for Green Bay to make a jump in that division. I really like Aaron Rodgers. In the South, I really like the Saints’ approach to trying to repeat. I have spoken to Sean Payton and Gregg Williams (the Saints defensive coordinator) about what it takes to repeat in this league as champions. The pitfalls and what have you. I think they have researched that pretty well and are very prepared for this season.

The one surprise team this year could be the Tampa Bay Bucs. I don’t see them as a playoff contender, but I do believe they have gotten better and I liked how they finished strong last season. I like Josh Freeman, the young quarterback they have. I’m also anxious to see how Carolina handles their two young quarterbacks, plus Atlanta is going to be solid. Atlanta could be very good if its defense improves. Overall, the South remains a solid division.